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How to create a patient experience that’s inclusive for all

More and more, inclusivity is becoming an important driver of health-system strategy. Organizations across the country are re-evaluating their approaches to diversity and inclusion in the hopes of creating experiences that are fair, equitable, and welcoming for everyone.

However, therein lies a significant challenge.

First, designing for inclusivity is a delicate balancing act. How can health systems maintain a consistently excellent standard of care, while also addressing the multifaceted needs of their communities?

Second, many healthcare leaders may be uncertain of where to start. How can they gain insight into the complex issues surrounding diversity and inclusion—issues which, until recently, may not even have surfaced in leadership conversations?

As ever, the best place to start is with a thorough understanding of consumers. By learning to understand and empathize with consumers, institutions can also learn how to create a more inclusive experience for them.

Here are three ways organizations can use NRC Health solutions to create an institutional culture that truly serves everyone.

  1. Take a second look at standardized instruments

To begin with, organizations will be well-served by thoroughly examining the data they’re already collecting. Existing patient-experience surveys can be a rich source of diversity and inclusion data—provided that leaders know where to look.

A first recommendation is to use core survey questions to see how different demographic groups are treated.

Many healthcare organizations already break down patient feedback by demographic group. (If your organization doesn’t, this may be a good opportunity to include demographic questions with standardized surveys.) This creates an excellent opportunity to spot potential gaps in experiential quality.

Do certain groups feel better looked-after than others? Might some specific populations feel put off by their care providers? Trends like these will point to promising avenues for intervention.

These disparities are most likely to arise in questions that involve interpersonal conduct. Questions like “Did you feel respected?” or “Did you feel listened to?” will be especially revealing.  

Demographic and feedback data can also be used for more complex inter-relationship analysis. This entails comparing how different patient groups feel about their encounters with different provider demographics.

For instance, do providers with a non-English first language earn higher satisfaction scores with patients who were born outside of the United States? Do women of color give higher NPS ratings to white male providers, or to providers who more closely resemble them in appearance?

Answering such questions can help organizations reorganize care delivery, and make every one of their patients feel more at ease.

  1. See what patients are saying

NRC Health’s Real-time Feedback solution enables patients to offer their open-ended opinions about their care. Properly analyzed, these patient comments can be a second essential source of data about health-system inclusivity.

For instance, health systems can use Real-time’s keyword search feature to explore potentially problematic behaviors among staff members. Experience teams can parse the entire corpus of patients’ remarks, filtering for the use of words like “racist” or “inhumane” or “ignorant.”

Leaders might hope that these phrases would never occur in comments left about their institution. But with Real-time, it’s possible to identify precisely what went wrong in such cases, which gives leadership the chance to course-correct.

In a similar vein, Real-time also enables the segmentation of comment data by demographic group. This allows healthcare leaders to see more general trends about the way a given group perceives their care episodes. Perhaps—as is tragically not uncommon—an organization’s providers might consistently marginalize reports of pain from people of color. With Real-time, leadership would be able to spot this trend, and train providers to be more responsive.

Crucially, Real-time also enables more immediate action. If a discrimination issue arises in the course of care, Real-time’s service alerts give organizations a critical chance to respond. When a patient leaves a negative comment through Real-time, the solution automatically alerts service teams about the problem. Organizations can then check in with the patient, offer an apology, and attempt to earn back their goodwill.

Taken together, these features of Real-time offer health systems a way to gain visibility into inclusiveness issues, curb the incidence of problematic episodes, and make amends when things go wrong.

  1. Find deeper insight

Because inclusiveness is such a complex issue, no tidy algorithmic solution can address it alone. Other solutions—also on offer from NRC Health—may be helpful in supplementing these efforts, for instance:

– A pre-designed question library 

If organizations are uncertain about where to start their inquiries into inclusiveness, NRC Health has a solution. With feedback starter kits (included under the Resources page within Real-time), health systems can deploy field-tested survey items that have a high probability of capturing important diversity-related insights.

Customized questions/reporting

The simplest way to learn about inclusivity issues may be to take questions directly to different groups of consumers. Whether through On Demand–developed surveys or supplemental questions added to existing Real-time instruments, NRC Health can help your organizations target diversity and inclusion issues with instant precision.

Several of NRC Health’s partners have taken this approach, using feedback forms to ask patients about episodes of bias, or ask them whether their specific communities require different treatment. These direct inquiries can help organizations quickly derive actionable steps for improvement.

– Survey administration consultation

A final point to consider is the distribution of patient surveys. No matter how well-designed or inclusive, surveys do no good if they exclude—or never reach—the demographics that leaders are concerned about.

Some groups may not speak English as their first language. Others may not have equitable access to the internet. Still others may have cultural concerns that deter them from responding to a survey instrument.

NRC Health’s consultants can help organizations navigate these issues of deliverability, customizing survey modality and content to maximize reach and response rates.

Community Insights

Community Insights is NRC Health’s answer for the recruitment of engaged patient-feedback panels.

Community Insights dovetails with Real-time’s feedback mechanism, inviting patients to participate in deeper discussions about organizational experience. By inviting different groups to join these panels, leaders can give them a voice in the direction of their strategy.

The work is never quite done

The above-mentioned tactics require considerable institutional will to fully achieve. And even then, they are not quite enough to fully address the barriers to full inclusiveness. Recognizing this, leaders must instead commit themselves to the uncovering—and rooting out—of institutional bias on an ongoing basis.