Leaders Take Note: Your Attention to Patients Can Improve Outcomes

Rounding, the process of reviewing, questioning, and improving upon currently established practices, is a longstanding procedure that is utilized across several industries. For decades, rounds were done within the military and police force to help maintain order, promote safety, and give a voice to those on the frontline. Within healthcare, rounding is an effective way for staff to monitor patient recovery and assess fundamental components of the hospital stay. In addition, rounding is used for diverse functions, from auditing hospital equipment to gathering feedback from employees.  

As the industry focuses more acutely on patient experiences and quality of care, the use cases for rounding have flourished. In this article, we delve specifically into purposeful leader rounding. During this process, hospital leaders and executives check in with both staff members and patients to gather feedback and identify opportunities for improvement. A recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine found that among 53 hospitals with top ranking HCAHPS scores, 62% currently practice leader rounds, demonstrating a strong correlation with patient satisfaction. While the information acquired from patient- versus employee-centered rounds differs, the goal is always the same: high-quality care for every patient.

So what makes purposeful leader rounding so important? Leader rounding is shown to positively impact patient health outcomes. With more people monitoring patient recovery, there is a greater chance of identifying and resolving any issues that could lead to adverse events. On a less visible level, rounding is an opportunity for leaders to form personal connections and build trust with patients and their families. Recognizing that patients and families often have fears about hospitalization, meeting with a leader in a structured fashion can bring reassurance and confidence not just in their physicians or nurses, but in the entire organization. When patients see this commitment to clinical excellence across the organization, their hospital stay is more positive.

The value of employee-centered leader rounds is not as widely understood, but equally as important. The process illustrates the truth behind the “trickle down” effect—the dedication and visibility of hospital leaders influence the morale of staff, which in turn has a direct impact on patient experiences and outcomes. When leaders round on employees, they can receive feedback on the work environment, offer staff support as needed, and recognize individuals for their hard work. Ultimately, this leads to a more productive workplace and better care being delivered to patients.

Rounding with a Purpose

Leader rounds should not be done merely as a way to follow protocol; they should be done with a purpose. Leaders should perform rounds to collect actionable information from patients and staff and to promote a “people-centered” culture across the organization. While several strategies can make rounds more purposeful, a key driver is effective communication.

This is where RELATE, our model for high-impact communication, can become a useful tool for providers. While this model is commonly used to guide interactions between care providers and patients, it is just as important during interactions between hospital staff. When used during leader rounds, the RELATE model is a simple way to obtain actionable information.

Reassure – This step distinguishes our model from others in the industry. RELATE was designed with the understanding that 96% of patients report having fears when going into the hospital. Leaders must make a proactive effort to reduce fears by being present and empathetic during rounds. Specifically, they should make a personal connection with patients, introduce their titles, and tell the patient how long they’ve been with the organization. A similar approach should be taken for employee-centered rounds to help ease any anxiety or fears among staff.

Explain – Leaders should narrate care, explaining what rounding is and why it occurs without using any technical, medical jargon. Employees should understand that rounding is a way for leaders to evaluate their own performances and those of other employees to ultimately improve care delivery.

Listen – Communication is a two-way street. Leaders should encourage staff to express concerns, ask questions, and be mindful of not judging anything that is said. Since many patients and staff have fears that keep them from speaking up, reading body language and other nonverbal expressions is an essential part of “listening.”

Answers – During rounds, leaders should validate any questions that are asked and clearly restate information. Through paraphrasing or teach-back activities, leaders can ensure that staff and care providers understand what is being explained or asked.

Take Action – After gathering feedback during rounds, leaders should address any concerns that come up and start to build a well-informed action plan. The focus here should first be on managing staff expectations, and then on taking proactive steps to exceed them.

Express Appreciation – At the end of their interaction, it is important that leaders thank employees, explain how they will be following up, and reiterate how nice it was to get to know them and understand their concerns.

This article is an excerpt from the 3Q 2016 PX Advisor.

April 1, 2021