Surveying (and Learning) Throughout Times of Crisis

Added on Mar 23, 2020

Surveying (and Learning) Throughout Times of Crisis
by Tom Lee

Some clients are asking whether they should continue to survey patients and/or their workforces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our view is that in order to manage a complex and evolving crisis, it is even more important now to listen to those who are receiving and delivering care to understand their perspective.

Collecting and analyzing data on how well patients’ needs are being met and how clinicians and other personnel are holding up under extraordinary strain is critical for management and for learning. Patient centeredness and clinician engagement are core to delivering the safest, highest-quality experience to patients. That must remain our guiding objective, especially during a crisis.

During this period, however, organizations may want to adjust how the data are used. First, the need to continue collecting data from patients with the usual or even greater intensity is even more pronounced during challenging periods.

• Organizations must understand how well patients’ needs are being met as traditional care models are disrupted. Now more than ever, simple summary measures (e.g., net promoter score) are not enough. The more granular measures provide insights into how well organizations are mitigating patients’ fears, minimizing communication gaps, and managing process flow from the patient perspective.

• This pandemic could go on for months or even longer. Patients’ needs are greater and different from what they usually are. Some changes in care models are likely to endure. We are at the beginning of a period of active learning. That learning cannot take place without data to guide it.

• Organizations should analyze data to learn about the impact of different interventions within their own structure; Press Ganey will be sharing insights from organizations around the country and will be analyzing patterns across all survey responses to extract global insights.

• Analyses of patient feedback from Washington state and other regions with high concentrations of coronavirus infections are already yielding important insights. The sharing of such insights and best practices from around the country will depend on collection of data in the weeks and months ahead. Organizations can only understand how they fit into these national patterns when they have their own data to reference.

• Organizations should share positive comments from patients directly with the staff who are caring for them. Now more than ever, personnel need to know how much they are valued, and they need to hear that appreciation frequently.

Second, the benefits of collecting workforce engagement data, including more frequent pulse surveys, are essential for ensuring the well-being and long-term support of your front-line caregivers.

• Clinicians and other personnel can and should be proud of how they are rising to the occasion and doing whatever they can to meet patients’ needs, but their experiences are heterogeneous, and likely to evolve as the pandemic goes on.

• Organizations should not just assume that their personnel will do whatever is needed. Rather, organizations should do all they can to support and protect their personnel. Frequent pulse surveys are a way to understand where their personnel’s needs are greatest and provide cues for how to address them.

• Organizations should focus on their personnel’s sense of physical and psychological safety. How are staff feeling about their own safety, the safety of their patients, and the organization’s ongoing commitment to ensuring both during a difficult time?

• More frequent, targeted pulse surveys allow organizations to monitor impact and adjust tactics in near-real time. This is important during a period in which circumstances are fluid and hard to predict.

Third, here are some comments on how organizations should consider breaking from usual practices.

• Neither management nor other personnel should have financial incentives tied to changes from baseline in patient experience during this time. If financial incentives are currently attached to patient experience improvement, organizations should consider announcing that these incentives will be considered earned, and that these data should just be used for improvement. Similarly, management incentives for workforce engagement should not be the subject of financial incentives. This extraordinary time is an opportunity to shift all focus of patient experience measurement to feedback and learning and away from judgment.

• Comments should be reviewed closely during this period to understand how to better meet patients’ evolving needs.

The work that caregivers and care teams perform in the service of their patients is awe-inspiring in the best of circumstances. During extraordinary times like these, we as health care leaders must use all available resources to support them in their mission to deliver compassionate and effective patient care. 

Visit our dedicated COVID-19 webpage for additional resources.