Using Learning to Improve the Patient Experience

L&D programs help increase patient satisfaction, because healthcare professionals are better prepared. Learn about healthcare L&D strategies here.

Published on 6 July, 2016 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022
Using Learning to Improve the Patient Experience1 1

The healthcare industry is a tough one to work in. Professionals in this sector are typically tasked with heavier workloads, insurance red tape, seemingly never ending paperwork, and a different degree of stress when it comes to delivering exceptional customer or patient service. It becomes especially problematic to improve healthcare service and the patient experience given the revolving door frequency of healthcare employee turnover.

We recently discussed the causes of high healthcare turnover rates in detail. Turnover has led to an inability to maintain patient safety and satisfaction goals. Yet, employee retention isn’t healthcare’s top concern.

Instead, healthcare organizations are realigning their L&D strategies to enhance employees’ clinical and non-technical skills to better improve the patient experience. Advancing employees’ skill sets with L&D programs helps to lower the turnover of skilled workers and increase patient satisfaction, because they are better prepared and better equipped to handle the demands of the job.

First, Focus on Developing Employees’ Clinical Skills

The endeavor of improving the patient experience begins with advancing those responsible for providing patient care. Brandon Hall Group held a webinar with Trilogy Health Services where they suggested developing programs that are focused on employee development that have a primary emphasis on advancing clinical skill sets. One of the first steps in establishing such an L&D program would be to survey both employees and patients on their level of satisfaction. These surveys allow you to visualize and understand the gaps between patient and caregiver, providing an opportunity to cultivate L&D content to fill these gaps.

Once in practice, clinical skill L&D programs can help to identify high potential employees from the rest. Employees that have the promise of greater potential are likely to become future leaders within the organization, and L&D programs establish the opportunity to strengthen their clinical skills. Withal, strengthening and developing healthcare employees’ clinical skills helps to lower employee turnover rates because they are better prepared to optimally handle job tasks. In addition to keeping great employees, L&D programs focused on clinical skills raise the quality of care and in turn, maintain both employee and patient satisfaction goals.

Next, Focus on Service Standards

If patients aren’t seen in a timely manner or find that they aren’t provided with great service, patient satisfaction levels begin to drop. After a program focused on developing clinical skills has successfully gained traction, the next step is to focus on the quality of service being provided. Healthcare is primarily a service-oriented business, necessitating a set of defined organizational service standards. In their webinar Brandon Hall Group stated that healthcare is really no different than any other service-minded organization, like retail. With that in mind, service standards should be developed and employed by every healthcare employee.

Further, Brandon Hall Group found that healthcare companies that provide consistent development opportunities on a regular basis had 65 percent of key performance indicators (KPIs) increase – including  customer satisfaction. In juxtaposition, those other companies that did not provide the same level of consistent development only saw a 46 percent increase. Moreover, these companies that link L&D to business outcomes saw a 44 percent customer satisfaction improvement when learning objectives are linked with corporate goals.

The bottomline:  there is a correlation with increased patient or customer satisfaction and effective, consistent L&D programs.

Based on these findings, healthcare organizations must put in place L&D programs that cater to improving service standards in employee workflows. These programs should provide consistency in service standards and patient service. A service standard L&D program can’t be isolated to just the onboarding process. As Leigh Ann Barney, EVP-COO of Trilogy Health Services, points out, “You can’t train people once on service standards and expect it to stick.” Instead, healthcare organizations should deliver ongoing L&D programs and provide readily available training and employee manuals that define the consistency of customer service and service standards.

“You can’t train people once on service standards and expect it to stick.”

These manuals should be explicitly written, leaving little to doubt. The healthcare organization’s service standards should be detailed regarding the patient and external interaction with employees, and other details like how to celebrate and interact with employees.

Create Groups Devoted to Improving Patient Experience

Creating a culture that breeds learning doesn’t have to remain constricted to the classrooms or formal programs.

Outside of L&D programs, it’s imperative to create groups sprinkled throughout departments that are devoted to improving the patient experience. These groups can begin to strengthen and close skills gaps among those around them. Dave Hare, VP of Leadership Development at Trilogy Health Services, states this well:  “People grow into the conversations you have around them.” Groups that are devoted to improving the patient experience shouldn’t be insulated from everyone in the organization.

“People grow into the conversations you have around them.”

How do these conversations start? An option to spur conversations is to distribute content that restates core values and service standards. People who exude positive attitudes and regard for improving the patient experience are contagious. Informal peer-to-peer learning and on the job exercises will become side effects of these groups.

Appoint Leaders Who Model and Deliver Service Standards

Appoint Leaders Who Model and Deliver Service Standards

It is essential to maintain high value service that keep patients and professionals alike happy. Through L&D programs and groups devoted to improving the patient experience, professionals throughout the organization can be appointed as leaders who model and deliver service standards. Some of the hardest skills to find are leadership and management skills. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that 82 percent of the estimated 5.2 million healthcare workers will need by 2020 will require extra training. That’s over 4.2 million healthcare professionals.

To stifle this, healthcare organization leaders can function as coaches and mentors. These roles wouldn’t require them to do much more outside of their day-to-day responsibilities and tasks. With that in mind, choose leaders that bring service standards to the forefront of every outward on the job task, who can also explain why some methodologies are better for improving patient experience to their peers and colleagues.

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