How a radiology department improved its national ranking in patient experience

Considering the continued focus on quality over quantity and the rise of online reviews, patient experience has never been more important in healthcare than it is today. A new study published by Radiology tracked one radiology department’s efforts to assess its own patient experience, identify improvement opportunities and make a difference.

“Studies in several radiology departments have cited various factors as important to patients including wait times, acknowledgment of concerns, friendliness of support staff, convenience of parking, and comfort of the waiting area,” wrote Neena Kapoor, MD, department of radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues. “However, it is unknown whether these factors are amenable to change or whether improving these factors can measurably improve patient experience.”

The quality improvement project was performed at a level 1 urban academic quaternary care hospital and tertiary care centers associated with that hospital. The network performs more than 500,000 imaging examinations each year. Throughout the study period, from May 2017 to April 2018, the researchers gathered more than 26,000 patient surveys and more than 22,000 patient comments about their experience at the hospital. Patients received the surveys two days after their visit.

Using patient input, the following interventions were put in place during the study:

  • In April 2017, all radiology staff were given laminated ID badges that displayed their role on one side. The other side included checklist to assist staff with patient encounters, serving as reminders of what is expected of them.
  • In January 2018, a patient experience oversight committee was established that would meet each month and review patient comments. The committee included members of the department’s physician and administrative leadership teams and the hospital’s patient experience leadership team.
  • In January 2018, a “heat map” was developed that visualized patient feedback, using different colors to represent the number of negative comments in a given area. If there were an especially high number of complaints about registration, for instance, the section of the document labeled “registration” may appear red while other areas are green or orange.

Overall, the hospital found that these improvements made a big impact on patient experience. Using patient feedback to develop raw scores for the department each month, the team found that its overall raw score increased from 92.8 to 93.6. Meanwhile, the national ranking improved from being in the 35th percentile to the 50th percentile.

Looking at raw scores for the hospital as a whole, the authors noted it was clear their interventions were working.

“Hospital-wide raw scores did not exhibit a positive month-to-month trend, suggesting that improvements in radiology performance were not attributable to overall trends within the hospital,” they wrote.

Kapoor and colleagues concluded that implementing quality improvement initiatives aimed at improving patient experience can have a direct impact on a department’s success.

“Negative comments from patient surveys may provide important opportunities for improvement, with changes in the percentage of negative comments among all patient comments being highly correlated with changes in a practice's national percentile rank in patient experience,” they added.