A new video and toolkit may help clinics reach that goal.
We have worked with many family planning clinics around the country to develop their capacity to improve efficiency through assessment, observation, and action planning. We always encounter passionate, committed staff who work hard in a stressful field with very limited resources and who are eager to find ways to do their jobs better. But we also hear about patient experiences that do not always reflect the mission and good intentions of these safety-net clinics.
Patient experience is influenced by a combination of systems, behaviors, and environment. Policies requiring multiple appointments to obtain contraception create barriers for patients already facing many other challenges and demands. Unfriendly or impatient staff make patients feel deflated and uncared for. Clinics with unkempt exam or waiting rooms give the impression that clients are unimportant or have low standards of care. Long wait times may also be a barrier to care for people with busy schedules.
Why patient experience matters for family planning:
Improving the patient experience is the right thing to do. All people deserve respectful care. Research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and the Population Council shows that patients who have a positive experience are more likely to continue using their contraceptive method and to do so properly.
Patient experience is integral to quality improvement. Patient-centeredness is one of the six “Aims for Improvement” in the Institute of Medicine’s 2001 report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Although it is a goal for all practices, there is often a gap between what is known to be good care and what actually happens in practice.
Improving the quality of the patient experience improves patient retention. Early experience with health care reform in Massachusetts has shown that as people gain more choices for care when they obtain insurance coverage, they often choose to go elsewhere, such as to a primary care provider. Patient retention is vital to family planning clinics’ financial sustainability and the availability of high quality family planning services is paramount to comprehensive health care. This is especially true in areas with a limited choice of providers.
Excellent patient experience must become the norm in health care and family planning clinics are no exception. Funding for family planning clinics is uncertain and diversifying revenue is more important than ever. Patient experience is now assessed regularly by health plans and public reporting of patient experience data is becoming tied to payment incentives.
The Video and Toolkit can help clinics improve the patient experience:
As safety-net providers, Title X clinics are often providers of last resort for patients without insurance or an ability to pay for health care services. However, they provide invaluable family planning and related preventive services such as contraception and breast and cervical cancer screening to their communities. As patients gain insurance and have more choices for care, Title X clinics have to show their value as centers of excellence for family planning services to retain their patients.
Under a cooperative agreement with DHHS/Office of Population Affairs to manage the Title X National Training Center for Quality Assurance, Quality Improvement, and Evaluation, JSI developed the “Patient Experience Improvement Toolkit: A Guide for Family Planning Agencies” that provides a step-by-step guide and helpful tools to improve patient experience and increase patient retention.
JSI also developed two videos to help in the improvement process:
“The Family Planning Patient Experience Video: Skills to Improve Every Visit”: helps staff improve their interactions with patients by modeling five key interpersonal skills.
“Prioritizing the Patient Experience: Strategies for Family Planning”: highlights patient experience best practices and successes from Title X-funded family planning clinics in the U.S. The video includes practical information on ways to reduce patient wait times and to provide patient-centered care.