Thanks to a partnership between the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and Orlando Health, patients may soon see more of a customer service approach typically found in hotels during their next visit, as undergraduate and graduate Rosen students observe and survey patients, staff and physicians in order to improve overall patient satisfaction and communication.

Taryn Aiello, doctoral research assistant for the study, said the study is about looking into what experience patients have, good or bad, and how the flow of communication works between staff and patients.

She said ultimately that the purpose of the study was to promote patient advocacy and help hospitals improve upon customer service, much like a hotel would.

“We’re primarily looking into a field of hospitality that has gone unnoticed until now,” she said. “Rather than focusing on the aesthetic of a hospital, which is important, we want to get down to the dirt of it and see how the patients are treated and satisfied with their overall care and experience.”

Aiello along with other volunteer researchers have been working with Dr. P. Phillips Hospital and Orlando Regional Medical Center to gather information by going room-to-room to ask patients about their feelings on the care they receive, how staff and physicians interact with them and any changes or suggestions they have to improve not only their stay, but every patient’s stay.

Lyndsey Sutherland, an undergraduate research assistant for the project, said, “We’re looking at what areas of hospital hospitality need improvement, like how do doctors answer patient questions or inform them about their care plan.”

“It’s challenging for patients to get to know [their] doctors beyond the parameters of them just coming in and out of patient rooms, so we take a vested interest in improving bedside manner and act as a liaison between patients and staff.”

This part of the study conducted at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital is being done in phases and is now in phase two of a possibly three-phase project.

Sutherland said phase one consisted of surveying physicians and shadowing their interactions with patients in order to bridge the communication gap between patients and the physicians they entrust with their care, while phase two is focusing on patient advocacy.

A possible third phase in the works, she said, may go beyond talking to just physicians and patients, but nurses and the other staffers that communicate and interact with patients more regularly than physicians.

As a nursing student herself, Sutherland said she knows it’s hard for patients to feel like hospital staff really cares beyond just treating them for whatever ails them.

“One of the questions we ask patients is, ‘do you trust them?’ and it’s interesting to how patients react,” she said. “Some hesitate because they weren’t expecting such a simple, yet telling question.”

Sutherland said, as an outside party conducting research that patients are much more apt at being honest with their opinions and general comments. Out of the 300 patient surveys they hope to get, she said they need about 50 more to complete phase two.

Matt Boseo, a doctoral student working at ORMC to observe and survey emergency room procedures and how staff interacts with incoming patients, said that people rarely think of customer or patient satisfaction until competition or ranking comes into play.

“Some might think the hospitality industry has nothing to do with healthcare, but there is a certain overlap,” he said. “Hospitals are still a business and concerned with approval ratings. More heads in beds means more revenue just like hotels.”

Cheryl Cyr, manager of hospitality relations at Dr. Phillips Hospital, said three years ago when this Rosen study first came about that managers at the hospital didn’t know customer satisfaction or patient satisfaction were tools they could utilize.

She said the work Rosen is doing has introduced a whole new level of patient care and service they provide in offering a hotel-like concierge service.

Now, hospital staff not only greets incoming patients, but can arrange travel plans and treat patients as if they were guests at a hotel by taking requests for room service and bringing amenities like the request for extra towels or need of a light bulb change, Cyr said.

In partial connection with early Rosen findings, she said that an interactive TV system called Skylight has been introduced, where patients can request the concierge services via their TV’s, take a survey of patient care once admitted and watch pre-paid movies to make their stay more enjoyable.

Cyr said the hospital now features a whole new department dedicated to patient advocacy where the staff’s sole job is to make sure patient’s needs are being met.

“The Rosen study has made patient advocacy a whole new level of service that we provide,” she said.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, by Carmen Carroquino, UCF journalism student; Original story can be found at: Rosen students help make hospitals more hospitable. Photo credit, Orlando Health Media.