Comments Off

Soft quality needs to become a thing of the past!

Author ntravis    Category Patient Satisfaction     Tags

Providers that manage patient satisfaction measurement as one more form of soft quality in today’s environment choose to increase their risk of ending up as a casualty along the highway to health care’s future.  An activity falls into the category of “soft quality” when its design and implementation creates the perception of action without it ever challenging status quo.  While anything can become a form of soft quality, the most common activities that fall into this category are mass education, the creation of new forms, discipline of the frontline work force, auditing and committee meetings.

Soft quality became popular in health care in the 1980s when providers realized that they could satisfy surveyors with it without having to really drive change into their organizations.  A provider could show surveyors that it had held 87 mandatory inservices, created 70 new forms, disciplined 214 employees, done dozens of  audits and held 102 committee meetings since their last visit and, too often, the surveyors would go away happy without ever asking the critical questions of what difference it all made for the patients and workforce and if the cost/benefit factor made it worth the investment.

For far too many healthcare providers, patient satisfaction became a form of soft quality. They send out the surveys, collect the data, aggregate the data and look at the data.  Yet, that data never or rarely contributes to the creation of value-adding change that is tangible from the patient’s perspective or worth the investment.  Too often the questions are too soft to gain any real knowledge and surveys rely to heavily on pulse questions that allow providers to decide what they want to offer patients rather than knowing what the patient wants.  Providers who cherry pick their questions to ensure good data engage in the worst kind of soft quality.

Providers who accept soft quality in their patient satisfaction activities are their own greatest victims in today’s market.  A healthy and robust patient satisfaction system that asks tough questions is a provider’s gateway into the minds and perceptions of its constituents.  When done wisely, it becomes a powerful business tool for understanding what patient’s perceive to be a provider’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.  It provides the value-adding information that let’s a provider with a generative culture for quality to move to the front of the pack by playing to its strengths and turning weaknesses, threats and opportunities into value-adding improvements through change.

Comments are closed.