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Reframing Patient & Family Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., Thursday, June 04, 2015

As the experience conversation grows and more voices enter the discussion, I have come to recognize a need to reframe how we think about experience overall. In much of what I have written and shared in my talks, I have stressed an important point, that experience at its broadest point is all a patient, long-term care resident and/or family member encounters while they are engaged in our healthcare system. Critical to this idea is that, as outlined in our stand at The Beryl Institute, experience also reaches across all segments of the continuum and the spaces in between.

I raise this again now for as recently as this week I have been asked about how experience fits with quality and safety efforts or compares to patient engagement. My concern and therefore my desire to align our conversation is that many in the experience discussion have become trapped by our own warnings – that we continue to address experience from the perspective of providers rather than what the actual experience is for those in our systems.

I start by reinforcing what patient experience is not, in order to build a framework and encourage a discussion of what experience truly must be. For a long while experience was simply aligned with service or service excellence or even more simply satisfaction. For many it still is. Service in healthcare is critical, as it is the domain through which we find ourselves engaging people with dignity and respect, as one human being to another. Yet service is also not the full extent of what the users in our healthcare systems experience. It is but one piece of a complex pie inclusive of quality, safety, service, cost, outcomes and influenced by caregiver engagement, in which we must work diligently to drive integrated actions. 

This leads to the question is experience engagement? There has been incredible work around the processes and tools to drive patient and family engagement and in their very creation believe our answer is provided. If engaging patients and families in care encounters is of value, which it has proven to be, this too becomes a critical practice in positively impacting experience. Engagement tools, and in similar light the concepts of patient and family, or person centered care, all provide an incredibly important set of resources for ensuring the critical positioning and involvement of patients and families as partners in their care. These ideas too then are not experience in total, but rather are central to ensuring a positive experience overall.

I continue to raise this issue for one central reason. That in all we do to ensure the best in healthcare as I note, from quality, safety and service, to driving outcomes or addressing cost, to implementing processes of engagement or person-centeredness, these ideas are OUR language inside healthcare looking out. Yet when looking from the outside in, they are all but parts of one experience.

With this mindful integration I do not suggest we eliminate all distinct efforts to drive results in these various segments of experience. In fact in order to manage the dynamic nature of healthcare today, we need to focus our work on each of these critical efforts to ensure directional progress and continuous improvement. Rather, I do suggest we MUST NOT tackle each of these efforts in isolation, or under the false pretense that they are not part of the broader experience for patients and families.

So what is the opportunity we then have in reframing patient and family experience? I believe we must:

  1. Look beyond experience as just satisfaction or service to the reality of what our patients and families see every day. We do them great disservice by simplifying this idea in a way it becomes tangential or even "soft” to the hard work we do in healthcare every day.
  2. Align and coordinate our divided efforts, and in doing so, our collective language, to reinforce a commitment to the perspective of the end user in healthcare today. We can still segment our work efforts and improvement opportunities to tackle these often complex opportunities and problems, but we cannot and must not do so to the detriment of providing a coordinated and comprehensive experience.
  3. Work together to address experience from the broadest perspective across and at all touch points and the moments of truth we create clinically, interpersonally, virtually, etc. and include the voices of those we care for and serve to ensure an integrated and experience focused effort overall.

Yes we must focus on the basics – the blocking and tacking of what impacts experience everyday on the front lines of care, at points of transition and in the many seams we have created in between, but if we lose perspective on the broader opportunity, our smaller steps may not help us realize our greater goal. If we are committed to providing the best in experience for all in our healthcare systems – quality, safe, service-oriented, cost efficient, outcomes driven, inclusive, coordinated and compassionate – like I know most in healthcare are, then we still have great opportunities ahead. I challenge us to think about reframing our view of experience. In doing so I believe we will identify and achieve all we know is truly possible for all those touched by healthcare every day.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
President
The Beryl Institute

Tags:  conversation  defining patient experience  outcomes  patient and family  Patient Experience 

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