Posted By Dr. Avnesh Ratnanesan,
Friday, March 10, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
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Empathy in healthcare is both a traditional concept as it is a new-age buzzword. That’s because it has never lost its importance as a legitimate element of a patient’s healing process.
Simply defined, empathy is the capacity to walk in the shoes of another. Essentially, the ability to understand, appreciate and relate to someone else’s emotions. There is more chatter in the industry now about defining, teaching, learning and measuring empathy in healthcare than there has ever been.
Making emotions a visible part of your (formal or informal) measurement validates the feelings of patients which in turn, 3promotes patient satisfaction, enhances the quality and quantity of clinical data, improves adherence and generates a more therapeutic patient-physician relationship.
Ultimately, it all links back to the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or the Friends and Family Test (FFT). A key HCAHPS question, the NPS or FFT asks the patient point-blank if they would recommend the hospital to family and friends.
There’s your ROI.
EMOTIONS AND NPS
Human emotions are core to every patient experience. At every stage of the patient journey, there is a feeling, sentiment or attitude that will, collectively, define the experience for the patient at the end of their engagement with a healthcare setting.
Hospitals are often obsessed with benchmarking against other hospitals in term of their respective performance indicators, however there is a need to first benchmark against the EXPECTATIONS of your own patient population:
- If the experience < expectations, then you have a satisfaction deficit which leads to frustration and anger
- If the experience > expectations, then you have a satisfaction profit which leads to delight and excitement
Frustration and anger are detractors to the patient experience. If these emotions are experienced, then you can be sure that the patient is on their way to relay their negative experiences to others or not return, or both! Feelings of delight and excitement on the other hand naturally motivate patients to ‘promote’ your healthcare setting to others.
Measuring emotions is key part of our 6E Framework, a step-by-step guide to producing a true holistic picture of patient experience. Its measurement impacts the full spectrum of this framework:
Understanding the real patient EXPERIENCE through EMOTIONAL data ENERGISES staff in their purpose and EXECUTION of solutions. Successes are repeated to produce EXCELLENCE in delivery and organizational capability in patient experience EVOLVES.
How do you draw these emotions out of a patient so you can understand, measure and respond appropriately? Some state it boldly, some 3hide their emotions through seemingly rational questions or casually drop a comment about their emotions, to test the waters on how it would be received in the healthcare setting. Pick up on these clues, don’t ignore it or change the topic.
For the uncertain and non-forthcoming patient, surveys are a great way to get emotional data. One would imagine that a survey asking about their emotions would not only surprise them but send a clear message that there is a space in that setting to talk about emotions, that a culture exists that encourages and supports emotions.
INTELLIGENCE FROM EMOTIONAL DATA
When the clinician and non-clinician are able to recognize the emotions around a patient, it allows them to be more authentic and honest in the support given to the person (not patient).
Clinicians are able to view the person’s emotions within a more accurate context and address it in specific ways: 2
- Learning: Where the patient is fearful because of a lack of information, there is an opportunity for staff to help educate the patient to reduce his fear
- Empowerment: Where the patient feels helpless in the face of his health, there is an opportunity for staff to develop the patient’s sense of power over the situation through education, tools and technology
- Self-discipline: Where the patient is frustrated over their personal management of their health, there is an opportunity for staff to help the patient develop discipline through motivation, tools and technology
- Feelings of control: Where the patient is overwhelmed with the amount of information around their diagnosis, there is an opportunity for staff to ensure that the communication of information is at a pace and volume that the patient is comfortable with and to involve the patient’s family members or friends in managing overwhelm.
When an organization can undertake the above in a systematic way, an ‘energy’ or a vibe starts to infiltrate through the ranks. Clinicians and non-clinicians start to discover or re-discover the meaning in their roles and the organization becomes more congruent with its purpose.
What’s the vibe like where you are?
1. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: What is it Really About?’, International Journal of Caring Sciences, Volume 1 Issue 3, Alexander Technological Education Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece http://internationaljournalofcaringsciences.org/docs/Vol1_Issue3_03_Ioannidou.pdf
2. Adapted/Inspired from information from a Chapter Abstract from Patient Emotions and Patient Education Technology: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128017371000020
3. “Let me see if I have this right...”: Words That Help Build Empathy, Coulehan JL, Platt FW, Egener B, Frankel R, Lin CT, Lown B, et al. (2001).
Dr. Avi Ratnanesan is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organizations and governments.
Posted By Jeremy Blanchard, MD, MMM, CPE, FACP, FCCP and FACPE,
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2017
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“I was on the inside looking outside. The millions of faces, but still I’m alone… I hope we’ll be here when they’re through with us.”
When I hear Foreigner sing “Long, Long Way from Home,” I am reminded of conversations I have had with my colleagues, physicians and advanced practice clinicians (APCs). The world of medicine is so dynamic and different from when I started medical school in 1987. Many of these changes are good and have great intent, but many of the ramifications threaten core value attributes of our different generations of healthcare providers: autonomy, sacred relationships with patients, complex problem solving and the joy of practicing medicine. In these conversations the providers relate not having a voice, feeling like healthcare is changing without their input, and not for the better. They feel alone and not valued.
Being a caregiver seldom, if ever, starts from the perspective of practicing medicine as a business opportunity. It starts from a place of the desire to do good. As we enter medical school bright eyed, empathic and energized, what happens to us? Or at least how is our showing of empathy and building relationships threatened or compromised?
This blog is my call for action. A call for us, leaders in healthcare and patient experience, to develop a strategy to address the following question. How can we help our physicians and APCs, seasoned and new, from multiple different generations, feel valued and recapture or sustain their joy of practice? It is paramount, because the provider being empathetic, engaged and joyful is pivotal to our family and friends’ quality of care and how they feel when receiving that care (1, 2).
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Maya Angelou
The reality of our present American healthcare model in regard to providers is reflected in these powerful statistics.
- 54% of doctors show signs of burnout and only 40% of doctors are satisfied with their work life balance.(3)
- For every 1 hour physicians provide direct patient care, nearly 2 additional hours are spent in activities associated with the Electronic Health Record.(4)
- In one study 52% of medical students suffered from burnout; of those burned out, 35% admitted to unprofessional conduct related to patient care.(5)
- 14% of Internal Medicine Residents rate life “as bad as it can be” or “somewhat bad.”(6)
- 38% of Internal Medicine Residents had personal debts greater than $100,000 dollars (2008 monies).(6)
- 6.3% of participating surgeons had suicidal ideations in the past 12 months.(7)
Physician burnout is real and threatening our whole healthcare system - the quality, safety and compassion of the delivery of healthcare.(8) Burnout is not just among older physicians or surgeons; it is across the whole spectrum of healthcare. In Maslach’s Burnout Inventory Manual, he states, “Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, feelings of ineffectiveness and a tendency to view people as objects rather than as human beings.”(9)
When considering this subject there is a complementary way of looking at it that I find valuable. In each of the above statistical bullet points there are multiple challenges accumulating to depersonalize and overwhelm the provider. But what if we were to focus on how we support these courageous and valuable members of the healthcare team? Instead of focusing on burnout, reposition ourselves and focus on developing resilience, investing in our providers to help them find their joy, recapture their personal and cultural value. The following are conversation topics I believe we need to discuss now to answer this call to action. Here are statements to serve as an agenda for generative conversations and next steps to action.
- Interventions for burnout need to be as multi-factorial as the causes. The etiologies of burnout for my generation of providers, compared to the millennial provider, may have the same or different root causes. Recognizing the differences in generations allows for more impactful and valuable interventions.
- Costs in healthcare live in silos with their relationships unrecognized or declared. A key to making this a prioritized conversation is identifying the price tag to this epidemic. The cost shifts this conversation from the doctor’s and APC’s problem to the CFO’s and CEO’s problem.
- We need senior leadership in health care to recognize and quantify the hidden opportunities of investing in our providers. Data shows doctors who have sustained empathy and joy provide safer care and a better patient experience. In population health models this translates to increased revenue.
- It is proposed with future physician shortages, APCs will have a greater impact on care delivery, healthcare revenue and patient experience; that “future” is now. We need to create systems that recognize the APC as a unique member of the healthcare team.
- With the changes taking place in healthcare we need to assure the new paradigm of excellent care outcomes (the quadruple aim) - enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs and improving the work life balance of those who provide care.(10)
- A happy physician or APC costs the institution much less in legal fees, mistakes, nurse turnover, etc. How do we help our medical culture apply the resources to address major causes of burnout and to support the development of resiliency programs?
- Essential to a successful navigation of our healthcare future is identifying communication as an advanced healthcare competency. It deserves the same attention as the mastery of procedural skills, knowledge base and work flow.
The time is now and the “who” is us. If we do not begin to have these conversations and change the perspective of healthcare, our “default” future is one of: not enough healthcare providers, increased healthcare costs and a loss of the “sacred” relationship between the noble men and women who care for patients. This conversation is focused on physicians, but applies to all who touch a patient’s life. Won’t you join me?
- Lucian Leape Institute. Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning and Safer Health Care. Lucian Leape Institute of the National Patient Safety Foundation 2013.
- Beach M, Sugarman J, et al. Do Patients Treated with Dignity Report Higher Satisfaction, Adherence, and Receipt of Preventive Care? Annals of Family Medicine 2005; 3:331-8.
- Shanafelt T, Hasan O, et al. Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction with Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2015; 90(12):1600-1613.
- Sinsky C, et al. Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties. Annals of Internal Medicine 2016; 165(11):753-760.
- Dyrbye L, Massie F, et al. Relationship Between Burnout and Professional Conduct and Attitudes Among US Medical Students. Journal of the American Medical Association 2010; 304(11):1173-1180.
- West C, et al. Quality of Life, Burnout, Educational Debt, and Medical Knowledge Among Internal Medicine Residents. Journal of American Medical Association 2011; 306(9):952-960.
- Shanafelt T, Balch C, et al. Suicidal Ideation Among American Surgeons. Archives of Surgery 2011; 146(1):54-62.
- Shanafelt T, Balch C, et al. Burnout and Medical Errors Among American Surgeons. Annals of Surgery 2010; 251(6):995-1000.
- Maslach C, et al. Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual, 1996.
- Bodenheimer T and Sinsky C, From Triple to Quadruple Aim: Care of the Patient Requires Care of the Provider. The Annals of Family Medicine 2014; 12(6):573-576.
Jeremy R. Blanchard, MD, MMM, CPE, is a Chief Medical Officer at Language of Caring. Grounded in healthcare realities and aspiring to partner with others committed to healthcare transformation, Dr. Blanchard is an expert in ensuring physician development, commitment and wholehearted engagement. A dynamic speaker, skilled facilitator and coach, he provides tailored programs for medical staff, coaches individual physicians, and partners with physician leaders to assess needs and implement physician engagement strategies.
Posted By C.J. Weese,
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, February 3, 2015
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I have had 36 major surgeries and over 100 minor procedures, been rushed to the hospital 13 times, life-flighted three times and have had six flatlines. I have legally died six times. And all of this occurred before I was 25.
I was born with Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF) with atresia. I had approximately four centimeters of esophagus coming from my stomach, which formed a pouch, and less than two centimeters of esophagus coming from my mouth. That part of my esophagus was connected to my lungs. I was born at 5:43 a.m. and at 6:03 a.m., I was being rolled into an operating room for the first of many surgeries to correct my abnormality. Between 1989 and 2009, I did not go more than one year without having a surgery or some type of procedure done. To say the least, I am very familiar with the healthcare field, but I take a different view. My view is through the eyes of a patient – a patient who has not known a normal life, but rather a life that was controlled by my health and the doctors who treated me. I have spent my life gaining insight into what a talented healthcare professional is and during my college years I gained an even deeper understanding of the vital role of talented individuals to any healthcare organization.
Shortly after beginning college, I started having problems swallowing as well as a lot of pain in my chest and left shoulder. I went in for a routine appointment and brought it up to my gastroenterologist. My doctor decided that I had an esophageal stricture and needed a dilatation. After three unsuccessful attempts to fix the problem, my pediatric surgeon referred me to a new surgeon because he thought a new set of eyes could help.
The new surgeon decided the original four centimeters of esophagus needed to be removed. They were right. The surgery was a success, but it was also a battle in and of itself. The surgery was supposed to take four hours. It took 12. I spent 17 days in the hospital recovering, 11 days of which I was in a medically induced coma. However, during my time in the hospital, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people.
My experience began when I first met "Dr. Jones,” the new surgeon my previous pediatric surgeon recommended. He was amazing from the start. Dr. Jones took the time to listen, and showed me compassion and empathy. After he listened to me explain everything, from birth on, he took a moment and just looked at me. Then he told me, "I can’t imagine how hard this is for you. But I know that I can fix it.” He did not jump into the medical terminology of what he was going to do, but rather spoke to me in a way I could comprehend and allowed me to answer questions as he spoke. I had a discussion with him rather than being told what was going to happen. Not only did he treat me like an individual, he was honest with me. While all doctors lay out the worst case scenario, he did so in a way that made me trust him and his competency. He was very direct about what could go wrong, but he also discussed how he would fix it if it did. He assured me he had a plan in place and several back-up plans as well. I trusted Dr. Jones – not just because he was a doctor, but because he built that personal one-on-one relationship with me and took the time to make sure I knew everything and was comfortable with it all.
When I was moved down to a regular recovery room, I was assigned a nurse whom I will call "John.” He was amazing. Most nurses I encountered have been compassionate, but he went above and beyond. When John came into my room, he always had a smile on his face. Even when I was in pain and struggling, he was able to brighten my mood. He instilled hope in me and faith that I would get through this and be stronger for it. He spoke to me and learned things about me – he knew what classes I was taking and about my family and friends. He cared. He took my mind off the pain. John helped to nourish and mature our relationship with one another, which ultimately helped me recover. He gave me hope and advice and always listened to me. His positivity was admirable and something I had not yet truly experienced.
The healing I found here was more than just physical, but equally as important. Oftentimes, I feel healthcare professionals forget their patient is a person. A person who is struggling not just with physical ailments but emotionally and mentally as well. The doctors and nurses I encountered during my stay were not only inspiring, they were life changing.
C.J. Weese works at Talent Plus, where she has learned new lessons about how important finding people with a talent for health care is. She spends her days joining the goal of Talent Plus to impact one million patient lives, much like the doctors, nurses and physical therapists who saved her and made her who she is today.
Posted By Dr. Bryan Williams,
Monday, July 29, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 26, 2013
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Every patient in every hospital is in a rather strange position. They need the services that the hospital and healthcare providers are giving; but they do not want to be in a situation where they need healthcare in the first place. For the most part, people don’t "enjoy” getting sick or injured, but they do. And since this is inevitable, patients reluctantly find themselves fully dependent on people (who they usually don’t know). Every patient is saying, "I need you.” It is critical for every healthcare professional, from physicians to nurses to ER registration clerks, to fully understand the moral and emotional responsibility of their work.
My family and I live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, and love it. Before moving there in 2004, I never experienced any asthma problems in my life. Since the move, however, I’ve developed asthma-like symptoms every year during allergy season. After a few years, it got really bad, so I found a pulmonologist, who diagnosed me with asthmatic bronchitis. He prescribed the appropriate medications to get rid of the ailment. Over the next few years, the same cycle ensued:
allergy season begins…I get sick…I go to the doctor…the doctor prescribes medication…I feel better…repeat same sequence the following year
Then one year my wife said to me, "Why don’t you just go see the pulmonologist at the very beginning of allergy season to get the medication? Then you can take the medication every day, as a prophylaxis, until the season ends.” Ok, sounds logical, but I immediately thought, "Obviously if that were the case, the doctor would have told me that years ago…right?” So I went to see the doctor and mentioned my wife’s suggestion. To my surprise and disappointment, he said, "Well, yes, taking the medications pre-emptively is the best route for you to take.” What?! Why didn’t he tell me that before?
As a patient, I need you to:
- Know that I am a whole person, and not just another transaction.
- Make me feel like you are prepared, and looking forward to seeing me.
- Tell me what I don’t even know I need to know…after all, you are the subject matter expert.
- Don’t just comply with my requests, but rather look for suggestions to improve my life.
- Encourage me to follow through on your prescribed actions (medications, etc).
Most of all, I need you to care about me, and not just my ability to pay or your ability to cure. I need you to care about my well-being and genuinely want me to be healthy overall.
As I’ve written previously, it takes a special person to serve others, and it takes an extra special person to serve in healthcare. Healthcare professionals are, in fact, special people. Besides skills, they have the responsibility and privilege to literally improve the life of someone else. Those who fully embrace that responsibility serve with their hearts, and it’s a beautiful sight to see. They let love pervade everything they do and say with their patients.
Your ability to connect, sympathize and empathize makes you far more valuable than any check that could ever be written. I need you. Inpatients need you. Outpatients need you. Families need you. Communities need you. Serve with your heart and know that your healthcare job is one of THE most relevant ones the world has ever seen.
Dr. Bryan Williams is a service consultant, trainer and author. He has travelled worldwide to work with more than 100 companies in various industries, and is very passionate about helping companies reach high levels of service and organizational excellence.