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The Power of Interaction: You are the Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In looking back at 2011, I have touched on a cross-section of topics on the patient experience – from service excellence andanticipation to value-based purchasing and bottom line impact. This year has led us to heightened awareness of the impact performance scores will have on dollars realized and increasing recognition that the patient experience is a priority with staying power. The Beryl Institute’s benchmarking study, The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals, revealed both the great intentions and significant challenges that are at hand in addressing the critical issue of patient experience.

Our research supports, and I fundamentally believe, that there is a need for a dedicated and focused patient experience leader in every healthcare organization. Yet in the midst of all this attention, we may have overlooked the most important component – the immense power, significant impact and immeasurable value of a single interaction.

What does this mean? Interaction is simply defined as a mutual or reciprocal action or influence. The key is mutual action; something that occurs directly between two individuals. No interaction is the same, but it requires a choice by both parties to engage and respond as they best see fit. In healthcare settings, be it hospitals, medical offices, surgery centers or outpatient clinics, there are countless interactions every day. The question is: are they taken for granted as situations that just occur or are they seen as significant opportunities to impact experience? Perhaps in thinking about experience as a bigger issue, the importance of these moments of personal relationship has been missed.

What this means for improving the patient experience may be simple. Rather than waiting for that one leader to build the right plan or for your culture to develop in just the right way, you each instead recognize one key fact – you are the patient experience. I acknowledge there is a need for a strong leader and a solid cultural foundation on which to build, but at its core patient experience is about what each and every individual chooses to do at the most intimate moment of interaction. If these moments are used as the building blocks to achieve our greatest of intentions, patient experience will be the better for it. As you look to next year, whether you sweep the floors or sit in the c-suite, the choice should be clear. In today’s chaotic world of healthcare, the greatest moment of impact may be in the smallest of encounters. It is here that the most significant successes be they for scores, dollars or care will be realized. Happy holidays to you all!

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Organizational Effectiveness.

Tags:  bottom line  Continuum of Care  culture  defining patient experience  HCAHPS  improving patient experience  Interaction  Patient Experience  return on service  service anticipation  service excellence  service recovery  value-based purchasing 

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Comments on this post...

Wendy Leebov says...
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2011
I love this piece, Jason! THANK YOU! I couldn't agree more! We go to great lengths to implement "strategies" and yet, within whatever strategies we;'re implementing, it is the quality of communication in every interaction that makes or breaks the success of the strategy. Take rounding for example. Some people knock on the door, poke their heads in and say, "Need anything?" And then they initial the log to indicate that they accomplished the round. But that will not produce the positive impact intended, because the quality of the INTERACTION was so weak (nonexistent). To make rounding effective, the rounding person needs to enter the room with presence, approach the patient, connect, tune in, SEE what's happening with them and engage them fully, so they can address needs, ask their protocol questions and really make the short visit a meaningful exchange. Our Language of Caring video-based training system focuses on the interaction skills---the skills that communicate caring in every conversation, every encounter. And our client are seeing terrific improvements in HCAHPS scores! I hope people take a look at or call me at 215-413-1969 for info. And the great thing is that not only do HCAHPS scores go up when people effectively make their caring felt in every interaction, the staff members feel so much more gratified in their caring work. They FEEL connected and effective. Thanks again for a powerful piece on the contribution every individual can make--- call it "The Power of One".
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Kristin Baird says...
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Thank you Jason. You hit the nail on the head. No matter what the organizational structure is for quality and service, we can never underestimate the power of one! Small gestures of kindness will always be at the core of healing. Let's be sure that we do everything we can to hire, engage and reward the people and behaviors that align with that principle.
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