Few aspects of the human experience are as powerful as the yearning to be understood. When we think someone listens, we believe we are taken seriously, that our ideas and feelings are acknowledged, and that we have something valuable to share. When someone truly listens to us, it builds a bond linking us to someone who seems to understand and care, confirming that our opinions and feelings matter.
“It can be stated, with practically no qualification, that people, in general, do not know how to listen”, says a recent article in Harvard Business Review. “They have ears that hear very well, but seldom have they acquired the necessary aural skills which would allow those ears to be used effectively for what is called listening.”
In senior homes, this seemingly simple act of asking, listening and responding is critical to resident care and to the health of the business itself. Why? Because from a strictly business perspective, your reputation, which can affect your ability to drive profit, depends on it.
Then there’s the reason of why you got into the business in the first place: to care for senior residents in a world where they expect and demand personalized service and care.
This can only be achieved by collecting and responding to holistic feedback measuring your resident’s entire experience in your home. It’s a process of continuous improvement that never ends.
So where do you start?
How do you:
- Attract new business using feedback?
- Build in regular feedback to track satisfaction with the services you provide?
- Learn active listening skills to ensure you really understand what you are hearing and reading?
- Get continuous feedback on your assumptions?
- Store the information you receive?
- Take action?
- Measure and analyze the results of those actions?
Why resident feedback matters
Many homes are turning to technology to further provide a holistic view of their resident’s health journey that can be easily shared with all caregivers and their families. The benefits of taking such a step are huge.
Not only does it allow you to provide exceptional care, but adopting technology also ensures you can meet current and new legislative requirements, because let’s face it, the rules are constantly changing.
If you can’t pass your annual inspections (especially when it comes to personalized care plans, communications records, and data sharing), you run the risk of compromising your license, reduced government funding, hefty fines and an impact on your star ratings.
A drop in your star rating does not help you fill your beds (people do extensive research before choosing a home and star ratings play a major role in that decision) and, for many, the money received through programs like Medicare can break or make a facility.
Using feedback to get potential residents on board
According to an article in Forbes, senior living communities are being pressed hard to offer much more than standard services. Fortunately, many are listening- proven by the sharp uptake in the adoption of new technologies.
“Communities are also paying special attention to the complete experience, from the first contact to moving into an apartment. Every step along the journey is carefully managed using virtual tools including online documentation, pre-assessments, digital signage and streamlined admission and onboarding processes.”
AgingChoices surveyed 1,700 older adults on what they expect from senior homes and found they were willing to share information during the sales process if it helped them choose a community offering a personalized experience. When you are able to collect information directly from potential residents, you have a better chance of closing the sale because you can use the information to provide them with personalized programs, custom living options and different pricing models.
This feedback loop must continue throughout the resident’s stay to optimize their experience. With technology, it’s like having a digital footprint of your resident’s health and wellness journey which gives them and their families more control over decisions made and a sense of added security.
This is no longer a nice to have; it’s a need to have.
Measuring resident satisfaction and well-being
So you have convinced a potential resident that your facility is their best possible choice and put in place technology that helps you track their entire health journey to ensure they receive optimal care. But how do you measure resident satisfaction? There are a number of factors that can influence this measurement such as meaningful relationships, social activities, homelike physical environment, positive interactions with caregivers and access to the health care they need.
Measuring the resident’s well-being and contentment provides valuable insight into how your facility is measuring up; when satisfaction levels are high, everyone is happier including staff, families, providers, regulators and investors. Resident satisfaction = more business and makes it easier to recruit and retain staff, a challenge in these highly competitive times.
Online surveys are a great way to track trends; consider creating automatic feedback surveys for onboarding and discharge processes and run an all-resident survey every two years. Family councils are a great way to solicit feedback that can be channelled back into process improvements.
Once you have analyzed the data, it is critical to take action. Many operations have a Quality Assurance Improvement Program which is a set of focused activities designed to monitor, analyze and improve process quality in order to improve health outcomes for residents and improve efficiencies and productivity. By gathering and analyzing the data collected, organizations can effectively implement change.
The final word
Gathering, analyzing and responding to resident feedback is a powerful tool that you can use to build continued financial health for your organization. Resident councils, family councils, surveys and technological tools to ensure a continuous feedback loop are excellent ways to measure and respond to what you learn.
But, perhaps, one of the more underutilized tools is the power of listening. When staff have more time for care (liberated from manual tasks by adopting technology) they have more time to listen and record that feedback in the resident’s all-important Care and Support Plan.
Listening is a skill we all think we have but one that is hard to master. According to Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D. listening is more than just hearing the words that someone is saying, rather impactful active listening is all about understanding the context in which those words are shared, along with other verbal and non-verbal cues, such as voice inflection, tone, facial expressions and body language.
A tremendous amount of research has demonstrated the impact and power of listening, he says. Effective active listening within an organizational setting has been shown to produce a wide range of positive benefits for companies, leaders and individuals such as:
- Building stronger relationships
- More effective team collaboration
- Enhanced individual and group decision-making
- Greater productivity
- Enhanced creativity and innovation
But perhaps most importantly, from the perspective of an organization in the business of caring for seniors, it leads to greater trust. Trust between your organization and your residents is paramount to a healthy organization and highly satisfied residents.