Many believe that how a community hospital is perceived largely depends on the community’s answers to four questions:
Is quality of care high?
Is the care safely delivered?
Is the hospital financially sustainable?
Are patients satisfied?
In the past five years, we’ve seen quality and safety scores improve – significantly in some cases – and we’re addressing those areas where more progress is needed. The same is true for patient satisfaction scores. And we’ve moved to a stronger financial position in a number of critical areas.
So it seems like we’re doing well overall, and even exceptionally well in some areas.
But I don’t feel that these questions alone, as important as they are, tell the entire story. I think there’s one more important metric to consider, let’s call it share of heart, which is another term for patient and community engagement. I’m convinced engagement is critical for a small hospital, especially if it wishes to thrive and not simply survive.
Genuine engagement is more than just the result of excellent service and high patient satisfaction scores. It goes much deeper; strengthening the emotional connection a Hospital has with its patients and community by emphasizing the human elements of healing such as compassion, respect and communication.
We recently surveyed Sonoma Valley residents using an outside research company. While our goal generally was to understand perceptions of the Hospital, both broadly and in key service areas, we also wanted to better understand the strength of this emotional connection.
The survey took two forms – a random local phone survey and an online survey. The questions were extensive and provided opportunities for respondents to offer personal opinions and share experiences, which most did.
In all, we surveyed 317 local residents. As you would expect in a community that skews older, a high percentage of respondents (70%) were above the age of 60, which is a core audience for SVH services. Of the total, 89% said they or a family member had used our services in the past three years, with more than half doing so three or more times.
Let me share some highlights from the survey:
SVH is seen as indispensable to the community.
- 95% said they see the Emergency Department as “essential” to the community; and 91% see the Hospital and its services as important to the health of the community (79% say “Very Important.”)
Overall, perceptions of the Hospital are positive and improving.
- 77% have a favorable perception of SVH, with 55% reporting “Extremely Favorable.”
- 43% report their perceptions of the SVH have improved in the past couple of years; just 6% report it has become worse.
- When asked why their perceptions have improved, more than a third cite the new wing and extensive remodel as main reasons.
- 82% report being “satisfied” with the level of care they recently received, with 65% reporting that they are “very satisfied.”
Most will use the Hospital again.
- 76% report they plan to use SVH again. Of the 24% who said they will not do so, most cite practical reasons such as that their insurance does not allow it, or their physician (often out of town) does not use it. Only a small number report it is because of a bad personal experience at SVH.
Spontaneous comments emphasize the high quality of care offered at SVH.
When asked, “What comes to mind when you think of SVH,” 67% of those responding mention something positive. Comments about good quality of care lead the positive responses. Many say they also value the “family” feel of the Hospital and the friendly, compassionate care of staff at all levels.
Kaiser patients use the Hospital and support it.
Within the sample were 54 Kaiser patients, of whom 76% had used SVH services for themselves or family members. Almost all had visited the Emergency Department, and some had also used other services such as Radiology or Lab. Their opinions were as positive as those from non-Kaiser patients.
I feel these survey results reflect a notable turn-around in community perceptions of the Hospital, especially when compared with the comments heard as recently as five or six years ago when many were questioning SVH’s viability. While there’s more work to be done, our community appreciates the progress we’ve made.
On a deeper level, the survey exposes the strong emotional connection many have with their Hospital, one we hope will grow even stronger in the years ahead.
This share of heart is a critical component of the New Community Hospital Model we are creating. It is reflected in many elements driving this model – the emphasis on wellness, the Healing Hospital orientation and the culture it creates, and our broad and diverse Population Health initiatives – all of which affirm the human element in health and healing.
I don’t think share of heart is an idea that belongs exclusively to small hospitals, but I believe they are uniquely equipped to realize it. Especially if, like SVH, it’s an authentic part of the culture.
In Good Health,
Kelly Mather, CEO
Sonoma Valley Hospital