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Sentiment Analysis and Patient Experience

On Tuesday we discussed the importance of empathy in improving patient experience – how it is essential to try and view the process from the patient perspective.

Empathy, however, is just one piece of a larger patient experience puzzle.Blog-Graphic-(07.11.13)

To understand how to improve patient experience, health organizations also turn to patient surveys and the corresponding scores.

These surveys, combined with empathy, are part of a larger process called “sentiment analysis,” and it’s a new process that, according to a recent article from Becker’s Hospital Review, “could give hospitals an edge in patient experience.

So what is it?

According to the article, sentiment analysis is a way of breaking down, categorizing, and essentially more effectively consuming patient survey responses, so organizations can strategically assess how to improve patient experience.

For example, the article states, “patient’s comments can be broken into their components and classified according to topic, meaning and intensity.”

Press Ganey has its own categories for patient comments including people, places, and process.

Each category then has its own topic areas. For example, the article suggests nurses and physicians for the “people” category.

Then, the topics can even be more finely assessed by identifying themes, “such as ‘listens well’ and ‘knowledgeable.’”

By breaking down comments through this process, health organizations are then able to more greatly assess how a patient’s experience could have been improved or areas in which the organization excelled.

The article suggests it may even be more helpful for hospitals to categorize comments in a way that directly corresponds to HCAHPS categories.

For example, separating comments into “physicians, nursing, pain management, and discharge.”

Empathy, as we discussed earlier, could be assessed as a “theme – identifying, for instance, that a specific individual within the organization was able or unable to effectively care for a patient with their perspective in mind.

After analyzing comments in this manner, sentiment analysis includes sharing the comments with staff – both positive and negative comments.

Not only are they able to see more clearly areas in which they need improvement or areas in which they are achieving, but staff members may also be able to determine if a low patient experience score was due to something beyond their control.

“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 [chief analytics officer at Press Ganey] says. ‘Allow doctors and facilities to pull charts and do process improvement.’”

Therefore, through sentiment analysis, health organizations can grasp a clearer picture of their patient comments and the overall patient experience they are providing.

Using the system in healthcare is a new concept, one that hasn’t widely seen practice yet.

However, it isn’t new to the business world in general – and it can be just as beneficial for healthcare as it has been for others.

According to Dr. Costello “While sentiment analysis is still in its infancy in healthcare, it has been used a great deal in business and in other industries. I believe that just like in other industries, five years from now [sentiment analysis] will be a staple for hospitals and provider practices, because capturing the voice of patients is increasingly important.”

Filed under: patient engagement

Engaging The Patient

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