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7 Steps to Accountability: A Key Ingredient in Improving Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012

As I continue to visit healthcare organizations and engage with leaders globally there are clear emerging trends at the heart of effective efforts to address the patient and family experience. In my recent series of blogs I suggest we must recognize the implications of patient perceptions as a focus of our patient experience efforts. I support this by reinforcing that culture is a critical choice for organizations to consider in terms of how they look to shape those perceptions. In fact we cannot overlook the centrality of culture to the very definition of patient experience overall. I add that it is on a strong cultural foundation that we can then ensure a sense of engagement for our staff and patients.

The missing piece in this important dialogue is that of building a foundation of accountability in our healthcare organizations. It has been identified as a top issue for healthcare leaders during my On the Road visits and at our Regional Roundtable gatherings. In looking at all the suggested paths and plans to accountability some general themes emerge.

Building a basis for accountability in organizations requires a number of committed actions. Without these organizations run the risk of falling short on their defined patient experience objectives. They include:

  1. Establish focused standards/expectations – Determine and clearly define what you expect in behaviors and actions as you create a culture of accountability.
  2. Set clear consequences for inaction and rewards and recognition for action – Be willing to reinforce expectations consistently and use as opportunities for learning.
  3. Provide learning opportunities to understand and see expectations in action – Ensure staff at all levels are clear on expected behaviors and consequences.
  4. Communicate expectations, reinforcing what and why consistently and continuously – Keep expectations top of mind and be clear that these are part of who you are as an organization in every encounter.
  5. Observe and evaluate staff at all levels providing feedback and/or coaching as needed – Turn actual encounters, good or bad, into learning moments and opportunities to ensure people are clear on expected behaviors and actions.
  6. Execute on consequences immediately and thoughtfully – Respond rapidly when people miss the mark (or when people excel) to ensure people are aware of the importance of your expectations.
  7. Revisit expectations often to ensure they meet the needs and objectives of the organization – Remember standard/expectations are dynamic and change with your organization’s needs. They must stay in tune with who you are as an organization (your values) and where you intend to go (your vision).

Accountability has been tossed around more and more in conversations today in healthcare organizations as something that leaders want to see more of. The reality is that accountability is not just something you simply expect and it just miraculously appears, it is something you must intentionally create expectations for and reinforce. As with patient experience itself, accountability needs a plan in order to ensure effective execution.

I often speak of patient experience efforts as a choice; one that requires rigorous work. This is overcoming something I call the performance paradox, which helps us recognize that many things we see as simple, clear and understandable are not always easy, trouble-free and painless to do. Yet I would suggest we have no other choice. As a positive patient experience is something we owe to our patients and their families in our healthcare settings, creating and sustaining a culture of accountability is something we actually owe to our staff in supporting their ability to create unparalleled experience.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.

Tags:  accountability  choice  culture  defining patient experience  employee engagement  HCAHPS  improving patient experience  patient  patient engagement  Patient Experience  perception  Regional Roundtable  service excellence 

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Organizational Culture: A Critical Choice at the Heart of an Exceptional Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Beryl Institute defines patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. While healthcare organizations may not be able to directly control the perceptions of patients and families, the opportunity to influence these perceptions is grounded in their very culture. I suggest that culture is fundamentally based on the choices an organization makes.

When I first explored the characteristics of high performing organizations in healthcare, "seven simple truths” emerged that were tied to positive outcomes. They represented committed choices of action in the organizations studied. These truths included:

  • Visionary leadership
  • Consistent and effective communication
  • Selecting for fit and ongoing development of staff
  • Agile and open culture
  • Central focus on service
  • Constant recognition and broad community outreach
  • Solid physician/clinical relationships

It was this combination of efforts that helped organizations drive exceptional outcomes in experience, engagement, quality and the bottom-line. These characteristics have continued to emerge during my exploration of what is driving patient experience success in healthcare organizations around the world.

As recently as my last two On the Road visits, with St. David’s Healthcare and Scripps Health, the central role of culture in patient experience efforts was reinforced. In the St. David’s system, at the core of the process for reinforcing system-wide values and focus on exceptional experience are three questions. They ask daily how staff will define, live and manage the culture. The recognition at St. David’s is that the experience tactics you implement are only as effective as the foundation of culture on which they are built.

This was also the case at Scripps Health, where they recognized the very nature of the organization has a significant impact on overall experience. Vic Buzachero, Scripps Health’s Corporate Senior Vice President for Innovation, Human Resources and Performance Management shared, "It is important that we build a culture that drives consistency in our effort. We must have the infrastructure to show the genuine nature of our organization, reinforce our focus on the patient and shape the balance of systems, processes and behaviors that will help us realize our goals.”

This is not just a U.S.-based phenomenon. My visit to the NHS in the United Kingdom reinforced the importance of culture to experience. They created an opportunity for patients, family and community members to interact directly with senior leadership and initiated processes that improved communication and understanding of patient’s needs. They also focused on creating happy and engaged staff to ensure happy patients.

This idea is reinforced by recent research conducted by Britt Berrett and Paul Spiegelman. They suggest in any business, and especially healthcare, you can’t take care of customers if you don’t take care of employees. The realization, as we saw exemplified in the cases above, is that to ensure the best experience and focus on patients and families, there must also be an intentional focus and effort to create employee engagement and loyalty. Again, this is driven by the culture of an organization. (They offer a complimentary survey in which you can gauge your own organization’s culture of engagement).

Through all our explorations at The Beryl Institute into what drives the best in experience there has always been an element of those simple organizational truths above, all which represent a commitment to creating a culture of service. Simply putting tactics in place has you run the risk of turning your patient experience efforts into the latest flavor of the month activity. Patients and their families and, yes, your colleagues and employees deserve much more. To truly drive an exceptional patient experience, you can only influence perceptions through the choices you make. One of the most critical of those being the type of organizational culture you choose to create.

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

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Organizational Effectiveness.

Tags:  bottom line  CIQ  culture  defining patient experience  Employee EN  improving patient experience  Leadership  Patient Experience  Scripps Health  St. David's Healthcare 

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Engagement: A Cornerstone of an Unparalleled Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 6, 2012

Over the last decade, engagement has been a consistently evolving strategic management term, first from the perspective of employees and more recently in healthcare with a line of sight on patients and families. In the simplest of terms, I see engagement as the involvement that someone has in a process or effort. Common discourse has had it tend to the positive by asserting employee engagement is a desired state versus just an action or behavior. Recent research (Shuck and Wollard, 2009) on the term employee engagement noted that with its rapid increase in use the definition of engagement has become muddied. Yet across the descriptions of this phenomenon there was consistency in describing engagement as a personal decision (not an organizational one) and one grounded in individual behaviors (as they relate to organizational goals).

This has significant implications for both employee and patient engagement. In the end it is about creating the environment in which individuals can choose to actively engage. Organizations cannot create engagement. Rather they can create the environment and reinforce the behaviors in which engagement can grow and thrive. This has significant implications for our work in healthcare overall.

Some have said that patient engagement is the latest buzzword for how we work to involve patients and families in the overall care experience. As a concept it has ties to safety and quality and links to the discussions on the application of meaningful use. Patient engagement is focused on ensuring patients take actions in order to obtain the greatest benefits of the healthcare services available to them.

The Nursing Alliance for Quality Care (NAQC) has deemed patient engagement "a critical cornerstone of patient safety and quality”. Their efforts have outlined a comprehensive set of nine principles to consider when engaging patients in their care. They stress "the primary importance of relationships” between patients, families and providers of care as key to effective engagement overall. This work stresses the foundation of relationship and partnership as central to the care experience.

These ideas are essential elements in how we identify experience overall at The Beryl Institute. At the very heart of the definition of patient experience is every interaction that occurs between a patient, family and the healthcare system in which they find themselves, from the deepest of relationships to the briefest of encounters. I believe we need to consider engagement more broadly and link its contributing values to the cornerstones of quality, safety and service. Together, quality, safety, engagement and service establish the legs on which the most comprehensive and positive patient experience can be built.

The same perspective can be taken when looking at the employee aspect of engagement. If engaging employees is around the behaviors of individuals that contribute to the goals of an organization, there is truly one means by which we can influence this action – the culture on which we build our very organizational existence. This leads us again to how we define experience at The Beryl Institute.

In reinforcing that the patient experience is "the sum of all interactions”, as we noted above, "based on an organization’s culture”, then healthcare organizations must have a strong commitment to not only create a positive environment for our patients and families, but one that supports the efforts of our staff, employees, and associates as well. In my travels to hospitals on behalf of the Institute both in the U.S. and abroad, I am continuously reminded that there is great power in the culture of an organization to drive excellence in experience. It is the foundation on which care givers and those that support them act and it shapes the environment in which care is delivered.

In considering engagement, I encourage us to move beyond the concept as a "nice to have” in our organizations, to a "must have” if we are to provide the best experience for patients and families alike. Engagement is not what we directly create, it is the result of doing the rest right – of creating vibrant and supportive cultures of service, quality and safety – of care at the highest order at every touch point across the continuum of care. If we do so and do so well we ensure the greatest of perceptions from our patients and the unparalleled experience we would want for our families and ourselves and we know they undoubtedly deserve.

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

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Employee Engagement.

Tags:  culture  defining patient experience  employee engagement  improving patient experience  Interactions  meaningful use  Nursing Alliance for Quality Care  patient engagement  Patient Experience  service excellence 

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Regardless of U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Patient Experience is Central to the Future of Healthcare

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Thursday, July 5, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012

One question I was consistently asked in anticipation of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision was what impact the outcome would have on the importance of patient experience. My response was unwavering; that if healthcare organizations are simply driven by policy or perceived political pressure they might want to reconsider their true purpose and very existence. Regardless of the outcome of last week’s decision, I believe the increasing focus on experience in healthcare is more than practical or pragmatic; it is central to the highest quality healthcare encounter.

This week I was posed the question again during a workshop I had the privilege of leading titled Shaping Healthcare Experience: The Power of Interaction. The audience included healthcare and service professionals from across Europe. The discussions that were ignited and the passion with which the participants engaged in the subject supported my belief that the effort to achieve excellence in patient experience is not simply a phenomenon in the United States or one simply driven by policy. This is also reinforced by the fact that over 23 countries are represented as members and guests of The Beryl Institute itself. Patient experience is a without question a fundamental and global discussion.

Whether it is global perspective or political or policy motivations, those of us engaged in healthcare in whatever capacity need to consider the impact of our work on the experience of patients and families. As I discussed in my workshop, we are all touched by healthcare in some way either directly or indirectly through family or friends. More so we are aware of not just the outcomes, but also the stories we take from those encounters. Those stories are comprised of powerful and important interactions – as suggested by the Institute’s definition of patient experience as "the sum of all interactions…” In the workshop I posed the question of which interactions are most important in the healthcare encounter. After a long brainstorming effort the realization was that every interaction from the most critical clinical interventions to the almost unnoticeable or mundane encounters collectively equate to the experience people have and all are equally important.

At their core, each of those interactions is about a choice. As healthcare organizations you choose how to structure processes or determine what behaviors and expectations to establish and reinforce. With this, healthcare organizations are also held to the individual choices their people make at every touch point across the care continuum. It is here where you may be making things more complicated then necessary. By focusing on policy or political constraints you overlook the simplest of human factors; that people most often want to do the right thing. What must be done as leaders is to provide the support, the environment, the culture in which the right choices can be made, the right interactions provided and the best of experiences ensured.

I hope we can shift the discussion on experience from "why” and "what”, from policy or politics, to understanding there is a fundamental choice to provide the best experience possible for our patients, families and guests. In the desire to engineer this process we overlook the basic fact that healthcare at its core is human beings caring for human beings. In recognizing this, you ensure patient experience is a central and driving force to a continuously improving global healthcare system. It just starts with a simple choice.

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

Tags:  ACA  choice  culture  defining patient experience  global healthcare  healthcare  improving patient experience  Interactions  Patient Experience  patient stories  service excellence  Supreme Court 

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The Power of Celebration: A Simple Secret in Improving The Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 4, 2012

Last week I had the privilege of attending an award ceremony designed to recognize the accomplishments of healthcare organizations for performance on patient experience measures, HCAHPS scores and service innovations. The recipients came from across the spectrum of care settings including acute care, critical access, physician practices, outpatient and home health. I have attended a number of events like this in the past and have always been moved by the enthusiasm and excitement generated by this type of recognition. Yet at this event, I was struck by something I may have been missing all along.

Whether a large national event of this type or a recognition event in a single healthcare organization, what I discovered is that there is something significant hiding just beyond our efforts at recognition. Recognition is a powerful tool in organizational settings. It has been shown to bolster engagement of staff, increase satisfaction and even boost motivation. Yet, what I suggest is often missed is taking one more step beyond acknowledgement and recognition. It is a magic opportunity we often fall short of in healthcare, the power of celebration.

I am not talking about hanging a sign on a unit to say congratulations for a performance achievement or even singing happy birthday at monthly staff forums. All these activities are important, but remain the rational part of creating cultures of engagement. One could argue these are celebrations, and while I would not disagree, they seem more often to be a thoughtful acknowledgement of accomplishment. By celebration I also don't suggest the need for costly or even lavish events, I am talking about the emotional connection we have to our success. Celebration is not a certificate or sign, it is the true expression of appreciation from the heart and shared with colleagues and peers.

So how can you use celebration? It may be the attendance of a senior leader at a unit huddle to express why the service efforts of a staff member had a positive impact on the experience of a patient or family member. It could be bringing the prom or an anniversary or birthday party to a patient’s room. It could be a red carpet welcome in the lobby for a volunteer on her 20 years of service or a thoughtful send off for a long time patient who healed and is now leaving your facility. So how do you know that you are celebrating versus recognizing? You feel it on the inside. Versus a virtual handshake, it is a virtual hug. Recognition is something you do; it is rational and thoughtful. Celebration is something you experience; it is emotional and heart-felt.

In a work environment where stress can run high and emotion sits just below (and at times above) the surface in every encounter, by moving beyond recognition (not leaving it behind) and ensuring true celebration, we intentionally provide an experience for our team, our patients, our families and our communities. The reality is they are having an experience whether we design one or not. In celebration we create lasting memories, the very essence of experience itself – that which is remembered. In doing so we unleash the potential of our people, acknowledge the humanity of our patients and allow the true purpose and passion in our work to emerge. Through celebration we enliven and enrich our organizations and we create new opportunities to positively impact the patient experience.

At The Beryl Institute we work tirelessly to ensure we celebrate the amazing work taking place in healthcare every day. I invite you to share your story. How do use celebration to enliven the patient experience in your organization? Provide your comments below.

Jason A. Wolf
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Employee Engagement.

Tags:  bottom line  celebration  culture  improving patient experience  Patient Experience  recognition  service excellence 

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Creating a Field of Patient Experience – A Call to Action

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, May 7, 2012

Something powerful took place at this year’s Patient Experience Conference and it took some time in reflection for me to sort it out. We opened the conference with the powerful video "I am the Patient Experience” showing the faces of the many individuals key to the Patient Experience. We then reviewed the efforts underway to create a Body of Knowledge, shaping a model for ongoing development of patient experience leaders, and the potential for formal certification. The days together were filled with the connections and learning central to the vision of The Beryl Institute (see the pictures and review the lessons learned).

It culminated with our closing speaker, Tiffany Christensen who brought us the voice of the patient and suggested something profound. She noted that our work in patient experience is truly a movement. In fact, what we are doing together is shaping a field. As the faces of participants declaring "I am the Patient Experience” flashed on the screen to close the time together, it was evident something bigger was happening than a conference or even the growth of a global community of practice.

Captured in the energy and spirit that filled those three days in April, was the same commitment and possibility that was shared by the over 300 individuals from 8 countries that have contributed to framing the 15 domains in the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge or even the over 8,000 members and guests that engage with the Institute community every month. The Body of Knowledge now stands for something bigger than just things we "need to know” to be effective practitioners in patient experience. It represents the foundation of a field grounded in knowledge and experience that can have lasting and profound impact on how those in healthcare work and how patients and families are ultimately cared for.

Creating a field is no small task and will not emerge from any one individual or organization. It must result from the voices of many, which is why I encourage your continued involvement in the Body of Knowledge effort. At The Beryl Institute, we look to be the catalyst, convener and coordinator of this important work. The next steps in the process will be the creation of work teams that will outline the key content for each of the domains of knowledge. Together with respected subject matter experts these outlines will help shape the learning needed to sharpen the skills of current practitioners and create a path to develop future leaders for the field. I invite you to learn more about the process and consider contributing to the work of these teams

I mentioned in a recent Hospital Impact blog that patient experience is not a fad, but is now a critical component of healthcare overall. We must work together to solidify the knowledge needed to lead, continue to support the research that will stretch our ideas and practice and come together as a global community that will take a stand for what we know is right in ensuring the best of experiences for our patients and their families. If we do this with the passion that I saw during our three days together at Patient Experience Conference 2012, there is no doubt that what we are doing is truly creating a field of patient experience.

Jason A. Wolf
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

Tags:  body of knowledge  culture  Field of Patient Experience  improving patient experience  Interaction  open comment period  patient  Patient Experience  Patient Experience Conference  thought leadership  Tiffany Christensen 

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Loyalty – The True Reward for Unparalleled Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a conference on Healthcare Experience Design. This is an incredibly important part of the work in providing a positive patient experience. In fact, experience design has been identified as one of the fourteen core domains in the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge (Have youprovided your input yet?). The element of design focuses on possibility, not problems. I believe we need to ensure patient experience overall has that same intention.

The well-known design firm IDEO reinforces these principles in the way they work with partner organizations. They describe this as design thinking, "a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices.” This is a powerful statement in that patient experience in many ways is just that, the ability to move beyond problems to something more meaningful, and beyond standard processes, to those that have real and lasting impact. In this shift from a problem solving to a design mindset, the potential power of a positive patient experience is unleashed.

This idea was reinforced by Gary Hirshberg, President and CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, who talked about the potential intersection of design and business function. He shared that while some organizations manage their priorities to reduce production costs and then direct significant dollars towards promotion and advertising, there is another opportunity. If we invest in our products and services to ensure the greatest quality experience, we can change the equation. This shift in focus is from one of awareness through advertising to one of attraction and engagement through loyalty. Hirshberg reinforced that you get to loyalty by doing what is right for your consumer, not by telling them how great you are. As I listened to this argument in the consumer product world, I found myself thinking about how this applies to healthcare.

In an era where patients and family members are becoming more consumer-savvy and the system is set up to provide for greater ways to actually comparison shop in the healthcare marketplace, how has healthcare responded? Have efforts in healthcare focused on awareness through advertising and promotion or have opportunities for loyalty been created and sustained? Has a system been built based on solving the problem of driving healthcare volume or has the industry shifted to the thoughts of possibility in designing for an unparalleled experience?

It is clear in healthcare reputation carries great weight, but how that reputation is presented also has an impact. Advertisements for awards, recognitions or even wait times can only carry an organization so far. They are the perceived, not lived experience. Rather it is in designing and enacting the actual experience through which reputation is solidified and loyalty gained. This suggests the importance of investing in what it takes to ensure the best patient experience versus simply the messages to convey value. In doing so the conversation shifts from awareness which will need to reinforced again and again via the next print ad, billboard or TV spot, to that of experience that will reach well beyond the walls of a facility or practice, through the words of those that have walked your halls, engaged with your staff and had the chance to be impacted by the experience overall. Loyalty does come by doing right. This is making the right investments in your overall patient experience. In doing so you move beyond solving the problems for your organization and instead reinforce what is possible for your patients, their families and your team.

Jason A. Wolf
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Metrics and Measurement.

Tags:  body of knowledge  bottom line  culture  improving patient experience  leadership  marketing  Patient Experience  return on service  service excellence  team 

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Creating a Body of Knowledge for Patient Experience Leaders

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
In The Beryl Institute paper, "The Four Cornerstones of Patient Experience”, we discovered that when organizations choose to have a leader with committed time to guide patient experience efforts, those organizations outperform their peers in both HCAHPS performance as well as patient satisfaction results. Finding that intentional focus on an issue leads to better results is not surprising, but it is important to note that a focused individual made the difference.

This led us to ask, if we can show that having an identified patient experience leader is a critical component of success, and specifically in driving measures that have service, quality and financial implications for healthcare organizations, can we define what it is that this individual does?

We started with a small steering team of healthcare professionals from hospitals and organizations across the United States on a mind-mapping exercise to identify key areas of knowledge critical to patient experience leaders. This exercise led to the development of domains that started to frame a core body of knowledge. Job descriptions were explored from roles around the world, competency models were examined from related fields and organizations, and then broader input was sought engaging patient experience and healthcare leaders from the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. The feedback led to hundreds of pages of thoughts on the critical nature and true complexity of patient experience and of the knowledge needed to effectively address it.

The discovery was powerful; a body of knowledge for patient experience leaders that began to shape an identifiable field of practice. It also brought greater clarity to the findings in the "Four Cornerstones” paper. While a focused individual was critical, this alone would not drive patient experience success. Rather an individual needs the skill set and "know-how” to truly impact this central component of the healthcare world.

That leads us to today, where the input and work of over one hundred volunteer leaders and contributors provides an initial framework to explore and a new possibility for shaping the field of patient experience. On Monday, March 5 we unveiled the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge and the 14 domains of knowledge key to an effective patient experience leader. With all the work that has led to this point, it is now that a much broader conversation gets underway.

We invite individuals from all corners of the healthcare system, including patient experience practitioners, healthcare leaders and staff, physicians, patients, families and community members to contribute their voices to the process. For the next 6 weeks, through Monday, April 16, we will be gathering your input to further polish this work. We will share the results of this effort to start Patient Experience Conference 2012. At The Beryl Institute, we believe the patient experience is about every player in the healthcare process and should encompass the voices of all those it impacts.

In healthcare, experience is truly central to all we do. The opportunity to provide a framework for the important work taking place every day in healthcare organizations is a critical global dialogue. I invite and encourage you to join the conversation.

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

Tags:  body of knowledge  certification  community of practice  culture  defining patient experience  improving patient experience  leadership  open comment period  Patient Experience  service excellence  thought leadership 

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Whose experience is it anyway?

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
During two of my recent On the Road visits (one with Children’s National Medical Center and another for an upcoming story on Banner Health) what I observed and what came up in conversation caused me to pause and ask the question – whose experience is it anyway?

In one example, Kelli Shepherd, the Director of Service Excellence at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital, shared a subtle, but profound change in the language they were using. The shift was one in perspective – from "our” beds to "their” beds. A simple change, but one I believe challenges one of the central mental models I have seen in healthcare. We have often viewed patients as individuals that things are done TO, not necessarily done FOR.

I would not say we have turned healthcare into a heartless, mechanical process. Rather, I caution that what we may have done in not recognizing "ours” versus "theirs” is to design processes and systems and implement requirements and standards made to work best for us, not our patients and families. So what can we do to address this?

1. Clarify perspective. Are we building our programs, and even our patient experience efforts, from what we believe will best fit our needs? Or are we considering the perspective of patients and families as our guests? Stop and ask yourself, especially as you consider developing your patient experience effort, if the process is based on what is easiest for you or what is best for the patient?

2. Build an active process to engage patients, families and the community at large in how we can provide the best experience possible. Many organizations are now using patient focus groups not only to gather feedback post experience, but also to design processes and programs. At Children’s National, Patient Family Advisory Council members are embedded in many departments. They review and offer feedback on processes and provide an open avenue to ensure a broader perspective is available in all planning; they have even participated in the redesign of units.

3. Find ways to show you "listened”. The biggest return on experience investment is ensuring that patients and families not only feel heard in the moment, but also that the experience they are having overall reflects their wants and needs. Find avenues to show you are listening; be transparent about the input you seek and when and how you can (or cannot) use it.

As many of us in healthcare call hospitals the "house”, we must acknowledge that we are welcoming patients and their families into "our” house as guests. Our efforts should be focused on ensuring we provide the best experience possible. To do so we must recognize whose experience it is in the first place.

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

Tags:  Banner Health  Children's National Medical Center  improving patient experience  Patient Experience  service anticipation  service excellence 

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Your Patient Experience Priority for 2012 May Be as Simple as Taking the First Step

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 4, 2012

With all the predictions of new healthcare trends and the expanding requirements being placed on healthcare providers, one thing holds true – at the center of all these efforts and initiatives lies the patient. This is not patient-centeredness in the traditional sense of simply the care setting, but it is now clear that whether you are ready or not, the patient has taken center stage in our healthcare system.

For some, the patient experience was the fundamental driver of their efforts well before any requirements were raised; providing the greatest service and highest quality outcomes for the patients and families served at every touch point. Others have found new initiative in addressing patient experience with expanding financial implications. Yet many still struggle with where to focus, what to do or even if to act.

The harsh reality is that as of today over two-thirds of the initial performance period for Value-Based Purchasing is now in the books. With a closing date of March 31, 2012 and then the reality that reimbursements will be impacted just six months later, this is not the time to get stuck in a state of confusion. If you are not already moving, you still have time to act.

I have been asked by many healthcare leaders for the secret to the "best” patient experience. And while I will be the first to say I do not believe there is one specific formula that leads to patient experience success, I have offered a few considerations. In my recent blog with Hospital Impact, I reiterated the importance of four central strategies:

1. A clear organizational definition for patient experience.

2. A focused role to support patient experience efforts.

3. A recognition that patient experience is more than just a survey.

4. A commitment at the highest levels of leadership.

These suggestions are not complicated initiatives, but rather they should be a simple choice.

In every instance of high performance in patient experience what I observed above all else is that willingness to make a choice. For some it was a broad strategic effort where patient satisfaction was a key measure in performance compensation. For others it was finding that one area where they could begin to move the needle – creating a more quiet and relaxing environment, rounding with intention and empathy to ensure a patient and their family felt attended to, or simply communicating consistently that they were taking every action possible to ensure their patient’s pain was managed. I have suggested and will reassert here that excellence in patient experience emerges in the ability to balance its need to be a strategic imperative with clear measurable, tangible, and yes tactical action.

Most importantly, as my grandfather so wisely shared with me years ago, the more complicated we choose to make things, the more difficult they seem to accomplish. Patient experience is a critical issue, with increasing demands and pressures intertwined with a passion for care and an understanding that it is the right thing to do. This does not mean we need to make it bigger than we can handle. Or even that we need be discouraged if we have finally been able to make it a priority after others may seem "so far ahead”. The reality is that whenever and wherever you start is the right time and place if the intention is right and true. Now you have the choice, one as simple as committing to take that first step. My hope is that each of us, in every healthcare setting, has resolved to do something to improve the patient experience in 2012.

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

Tags:  bottom line  culture  defining patient experience  improving patient experience  Interaction  Patient Experience  service excellence  value-based purchasing 

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