My streak is alive.
On Tuesday, I received an email pitching a story on the dramatic new changes to the hospital gown. Stylish. Comfortable. Balances patient privacy with the clinician's need to administer care.
Honestly, it sounded very similar to a release I got in March, which promised that new gowns are "modest, stylish … easy to put on and provide simple access for health care providers without compromising coverage.” As an added bonus, they are also made to feel like pajamas. I may just want to stuff those in my duffle bag on the way out.
I was so relieved to get the April 1 release (no, it wasn't an April Fool's joke) because in the short month of February, I had to wait until day 27 to get a similar pitch. My streak now stands at nine consecutive months of receiving a press release on how hospital gowns are not just making a new fashion statement, but transforming care delivery. Who knew that there were so many hospital fashionistas out there?
For as many releases as I get announcing these amazing new styles, no one from Vogue would have been snapping pictures during my last couple of visits to the hospital, either for a family member or myself. No, we were draped in the same drab, there's-a-draft-in-the-back tarp.
Did that shade my perception of the quality of care? Not really, but it does stick out as a negative on my patient experience. We all know how uncomfortable that walk down the hall is, with one hand behind the back holding the gown together.
And then consider what happens when we get home. I am still receiving multiple bills from multiple hospital departments for an observation stay I had last December. Among the most frustrating things is the fact that the radiology practice doesn't take credit cards — just checks.
At last week's ACHE Congress, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock suggested that much of the health care system is failing to meet a simple patient test: "When I come to your hospital as a patient, do I register once? Do I get one patient number and do I get one bill?"
I am not so naïve as to think that deciding which hospital gowns to buy gets discussed in the boardroom or in the C-suite. And, yes, there are significant barriers to generating a unified, easy-to-comprehend bill. But, these aches and pains are symptomatic of a larger problem facing hospital leaders — creating an exceptional patient experience.
The little things add up. While they don't all appear on an HCAHPS survey, they influence our overall perception of a hospital stay. Why does the Ritz have its reputation? Because the luxury hotel chain does the little things right. Can you say the same for your hospital?
So, even as heady issues around finances and outcomes capture most of the attention, it's important to stay attuned to the softer side of the equation.