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3 Ways to Avoid “Measurement Whac-a-Mole”

October 25th, 2011 by Janet Goddard

The best of intentions, quickly forgotten.   These six words describe most measurement systems.

Let me give an example. In working with a health care provider, I learned about their customer satisfaction survey. The hospital managers receive a monthly report on different aspects of the patient experience (“sensitivity to patients’ needs,” “time spent with patients,” “doctor provided information about medications,” and so forth.)   Measuring how patients feel about these aspects of their care makes perfect sense, but what managers actually do with this information does not.

When caregivers get a poor rating on “sensitivity to patients’ needs,” they get verbally flogged by management. So what do you think caregivers do for the next month? They run around trying to figure out how to be more sensitive to patients’ needs. Yet, this is not done systematically or consistently in that hospital location, let alone across the hospital system. Each caregiver just tries to deliver more sensitive care without clear guidance on what that means or how to deliver it.  Then, the next month, managers tell the caregivers that they scored poorly on how the “doctor provided information about medications,” so the focus of caregiver efforts haphazardly shifts.  And guess what happens the next month?

How long can this type of reactionary response to patient satisfaction scores go on? Eventually, caregivers wear out because there is a new problem each month and there are no systematic solutions provided.

Organizations need to use satisfaction data more effectively by looking at the scores over time and instituting systematic solutions that can be carried out consistently across the entire organization. If “time spent with patients” is an issue over a number of quarters, organizations need to develop a process that enables caregivers to shift their behavior to ensure that they are meeting patients’ needs regarding the time they spend with them.

Don’t use measurement data to flog employees.   Instead try these three things:

  • Highlight the good.  Use measurement data to highlight the good work of employees.   Rather than just looking at the areas that employees performed poorly, managers should analyze the data more thoroughly and reward employees for behaviors customers or patients applauded.
  • Stop the “issue of the month” insanity.  Look at the measurement feedback over time and determine what really needs improving. Then, pull together a team to address the issue and make recommendations.
  • Don’t measure too many things.   Instead, do a customer survey that enables you to determine your organization’s most important value drivers. Stay focused on those and your organization will be able to deliver what customers want most.


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