Making Authentic Patient Connections Seamless

Are your understaffed inpatient units struggling with patient experience scores? Here’s good news. Even under extreme conditions, most providers care deeply for their patients. When they use a framework to show how much they care, patient connections are made effortlessly.

Swati Mehta, MD

Swati Mehta , MD, FACP, SFHM, CPXP

Director of Quality and Performance

Published January 27, 2023

Making Authentic Patient Connections Seamless

Building a Framework Around Patient Care

As Vituity’s director of patient experience for the last six years, I’ve developed a framework to help clinicians practice these skills. Frameworks are comfortable and familiar to most hospitalists. We use them daily to diagnose patients, prescribe medications, and make referral decisions. We’ve internalized many of them so deeply that they feel automatic. Likewise, we can hardwire patient experience (PX) best practices, tweaking them to our comfort level to form an authentic bond with our patients.

This helps them connect instantly to patients, respond effectively to issues, and use proven strategies to raise HCAHPS scores. Best of all, a strong patient connection via these PX best practices leads to an improved sense of fulfillment, more well-being at work, and less burnout—a win-win!


Patient Experience Education Makes Practice More Fulfilling

Conventional wisdom suggests that happy, engaged physicians generally have more satisfied patients. However, the relationship may cut both ways. A recent Physician Foundation survey found that forging strong patient connections generally improved clinicians’ job satisfaction. However, most physicians reported that time and administrative pressures left them with insufficient bandwidth to connect with patients.

Systemic issues like administrative creep certainly need to be addressed. At the same time, it’s important to remember that patient-provider connections can happen quickly and naturally. Equipping clinicians with communication skills and tools helps them to feel more connected even when time is tight.

As director of patient experience, my focus is to break complex tasks into simple steps that are easy for busy providers to master. My team then delivers these frameworks in formats that fit easily into busy schedules. For example, we offer online learning collaboratives and bootcamps that providers can attend from their homes and offices. Providers also receive CME credits, allowing them to check yet another task off their to-do lists.

Patient Experience in Action

Vituity’s PX education programs have a great track record across varied hospitals and patient populations. The following hospital medicine department participated in the 2021 collaborative and PX leadership boot camp followed by multiple coaching calls in 2022—and is still achieving new wins, sustaining their scores a year later.

CommonSpirit Mercy Medical Center, Redding, CA

During the 2021 collaborative, the hospitalist team launched several initiatives, including:

  • An initial nurse survey to gain input from the entire team.
  • An integrated PX coordinator to round on admitted patients.
  • Quarterly one-to-one coaching sessions for all team members by a dedicated physician-patient experience champion/coach.

They also worked diligently to master the 6H model, a patient experience framework that supports connection, expectation setting, and service recovery.

One of the most successful initiatives at Redding was implementing patient care cards for newly admitted patients. Team members were so impressed with the benefits of cards, additional cards were added for discharged patients that provide hospitalist contact info for any concerns or questions.

The team went above and beyond in their journey to patient experience excellence. If a patient dies on a hospital unit, the team has a tree planted in their honor, and the family receives a sympathy card detailing this gesture.

As a result, Mercy Redding raised its “communication w/doctors” top box score from 72% to 96% in 2022.

Seeking PX Talent

Vituity offers a wealth of opportunities for hospitalists passionate about human connection. Each site leadership team includes a PX champion: an assistant medical director who develops and administers the patient experience program. Many of our PX champions have advanced to become medical, regional, and quality program directors.

Learn more about hospital medicine services at Vituity.

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