Sentiment Analysis: An Emerging Trend That Could Give Hospitals an Edge in Patient Experience

December 28, 2017

Hospitals can use the strategy to improve patient experience by analysing patients’ comments on satisfaction surveys.  An emerging trend, sentiment analysis, has the potential to give hospitals an extra edge in deepening their understanding of the patient experience. For organizations seeking cutting-edge tools for patient experience improvement, Press Ganey provides a comprehensive suite of solutions allowing organizations to turn data into action plans for significant health care performance improvement.

1. It quantifies performance: With sentiment analysishospitals classify patients’ comments into component parts–such as people, places and process, and then into physicians and nurses within the people category–and score them. By scoring comments based on whether they are positive or negative, hospitals can quantify patients’ experience and identify areas to improve.

2. It provides in-depth insight: Hospitals also can classify patients’ comments into HCAHPS categories–which include communication with nurses, communication with doctors and responsiveness of hospital staff–to deepen their understanding of their HCAHPS scores and know what factors are affecting Medicare reimbursement.

3. It motivates staff: Sentiment analysis can provide positive comments to motivate healthcare team members to deliver excellent patient experiences. Hospitals also can use negative comments to identify and respond to inadequacies in processes or substandard experiences.

Sentiment analysis as strategy
Classifying comments — physicians, nursing, pain management and discharge — can enhance a hospital’s understanding its  scores by providing greater depth. For example, sentiment analysis can separate patients’ comments about the provider’s responsiveness to pain and the effectiveness of pain management. An analysis  found that just responding to pain in a timely manner could move survey scores dramatically. More than half of patients claim pain relief once helped, while only 20 percent say staff responded quickly enough to their pain. There is a fivefold sentiment score difference between these two groups. Thus hospitals can target pain responsiveness to improve patient satisfaction.

Another example of using sentiment analysis as a strategy to improve patient experience is looking at specific themes, such as empathy. An analysis of  the relationship between emergency department patients’ positive comments on physicians’ and nurses’ empathy and the overall patient experience score. When there are high nurse empathetic scores, the average ratio of positive to negative comments is 3.3 to 1 compared with the average 1.4 to 1 ratio. This finding shows that focusing on empathy can significantly improve hospitals’ patient experience scores. “If I were a hospital administrator, I would ask my trainers how to inject empathy into my staff, doctors and nurses in the way they interact with patients,” Dr. Costello says.

Sharing comments with staff

In addition to looking at an analysis of all patients’ comments, sentiment analysis can help hospital leaders identify positive comments that can motivate staff. Dr. Costello suggests sharing a few highly positive comments during every weekly meeting to motivate healthcare team members.

Sharing negative comments can help providers identify weaknesses and respond to patients who had a negative experience. For example, sentiment analysis can set aside comments with highly negative words, such as “sue” or “outrageous,” so that leaders can meet with the physician to identify the problem and initiate a discussion with the patient. “Negative comments don’t always mean it was the deliverer’s fault; it [may] mean something else was wrong with the process,” Dr. Costello says. “Allow doctors and facilities to pull charts and do process improvement.”

Sentiment analysis trajectory
While sentiment analysis is still in its infancy in healthcare, it has been used a great deal in business and in other industries.  In addition, as hospitals as a group improve patient experience, the competition for attracting patients will increase.

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