Health care takes cues from hospitality on customer service

Chris Singer approaches patients and their families sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with a smile every time.

As the OptumCare vice president of patient experience recently made his rounds at the Oakey Boulevard offices of Southwest Medical Associates, he asked visitors how he, personally, could make seeing the doctor a more pleasant experience.

“Can I ask you a quick question, an honest question?” Singer asked 34-year-old April J., who requested her last name be omitted. “When you think of Las Vegas, you think of the service experience that is hospitality. How do you think we could improve it for health care?”

She took a minute to think, then said wait times can be too long, especially when a person isn’t feeling well.

Although Singer couldn’t act on April’s suggestion that day, he offered his card. “If there is anything that you discover that you need, my cellphone number is on there,” Singer told her, before thanking her for her time.

In the Entertainment Capital of the World, medical groups are increasingly taking cues from our city’s biggest industry — hospitality — as they try to improve patient experiences. Happier patients make for loyal patients, they are finding, just as resorts use incentives to entice customers to return.

It all comes down to funding, as the government ties those experiences to reimbursement dollars based on formulas developed over the past several years by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

At Southwest Medical and DignityHealth-St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, for example, the leaders in patient experience come straight from the Strip — Singer worked with St. Rose’s Jason Grattini at The Mirage before the two moved to health care.

At UNLV, the School of Medicine is partnering with the College of Hospitality in training future doctors.

“The way people choose care is no longer based on their health plan,” Grattini said. It’s based on their recovery experience.

Instead of arbitrarily picking a doctor or hospital, patients today often consider factors including cleanliness of a facility, the technology available and the level of customer service delivered by staff, Grattini said.

“These are things that they’re starting to share on Yelp and on Facebook,” he said. “If we’re not doing things that are distinctive and remarkable to them … they’re not going to choose us.”

“What it means for the patient is now health care organizations are focusing on making sure the patients are having a better time,” said Stowe Shoemaker, dean of UNLV’s College of Hospitality.

Where numbers come from

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS) in 2006 as a tool to measure patient perspectives of hospitals.

Six years later in 2012, the scores became instrumental in how much the government reimburses hospitals for care. The higher the score, the more the hospital gets paid.

CMS began consolidating hospital scores into a one- through five-star overall rating in 2016. All hospitals in the Las Vegas-area received one or two stars on the most recent overall assessments, which came out in December.

Ratings from patient experience surveys, which cover 11 topics and are one factor in a hospital’s overall rating, generally come in at or below national averages.

That may change post-Oct. 1, according to Chris Cochran, chairman of the health care administration department at UNLV’s School of Community Health Sciences.

When updated ratings are released in April, Cochran said he wouldn’t be surprised to see if Las Vegas-area hospitals received better scores for the care they delivered after the mass shooting on the Strip last year, which left 58 dead and hundreds wounded.

What works?

The focus on enhancing a patient’s experience beyond healing isn’t entirely new. Quint Studer, an entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Florida, is known for putting patient experience “on the map” more than two decades ago at Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago, Tierney said.

“At that point in time, health care (wasn’t) really into the concept of doing customer service,” Tierney said. “We did not think of ourselves being akin to anything in hospitality, God forbid.”

Improving communication is a large part of bettering that patient experience, experts say.

“I think in general trying to be nice to patients, that’s more of a key factor,” Cochran said.

At Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, good communication can be as basic as staff helping direct lost family and friends in the hospital’s halls, Vice President of Patient Experience Cyndi Tierney said.

It also includes listening to patients when they say they’re bored or sending a volunteer in to read with them or play card games.

“The voice of the consumer, it’s growing. It’s been growing,” Singer said. “Much of the public selects doctors … much like searching for a restaurant or hotel.”

Beyond bettering communication, health care systems are also looking to improve aesthetics for appeal and function.

Singer said that includes updating furniture and light fixtures.

At the St. Rose Dominican San Martin campus on Warm Springs Road, staff took the “Do Not Touch” signs off a baby grand piano to encourage people sitting in the lobby to share their talents.

The hospital also recently started using two glass walls originally meant to display performance metrics for sharing inspirational quotes instead.

“In an environment that’s so restrictive, to give patients the opportunity to react with their environment I think is therapeutic,” Grattini said.

About the HCAHPS Survey

The HCAHPS Survey was created in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2002 and implmented in October 2006. The survey, administered by mail or phone, is a standardized method for the federal government to track patient perceptions of hospitals.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which administers the survey, withholds a percentage of Medicare payments from acute-care hospitals to redistribute nationwide based on quality of care. The HCAHPS survey results account for 25 percent of the hospital’s Total Performance Score, which dictates the amount of money a hospital is reimbursed.

Hospitals rely on Medicare funding to keep their doors open, UNLV’s Chris Cochran said.

“Any loss of revenue could be significant for them,” he said.

What makes up “patient experience”

The survey consists of 27 questions, 18 on the patient’s hospital experiences. Measures that affect star ratings include:

Communication with doctors and nurses

Responsiveness of staff

Communication about medicine

Cleanliness and quietness

Care instructions after discharge

Overall hospital rating and willingness to recommend

Contact Jessie Bekker at or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like