Happy New Year and I hope the first few days of January find you rested and ready for an exciting year ahead. I also recognize that 2018 brings continued uncertainty for healthcare and shifting pressures on our healthcare systems globally. This potential friction of calm and chaos is the boundary on which I believe we will find ourselves in healthcare for some time to come. And it is on this very active boundary where I believe we can and will thrive.
In the last year, we saw great strides in our efforts to elevate the patient experience conversation. Patient experience gatherings dotted the globe covering continents, inspiring national systems to refocus their intention, and encouraging new thinking and renewed purpose. Evidence continued to mount on the value of a broader commitment to experience and healthcare overall showed increasing commitment to a focus on experience as a central and integrated component of all we do. The State of Patient Experience 2017 revealed increasing investments, expanding scope and a realization that experience efforts are a clear path to achieving desired outcomes.
We were also guided by the powerful stories of those experiencing care. I was particularly inspired by the thoughtful call for compassion raised as we closed the year by Dr. Rana Awdish from Henry Ford and Tiffany Christensen, our new VP of Experience Innovation at The Beryl Institute at the IHI National Forum. Rana reinforced “We really can't presume to know the answer, we must ask generous questions to really know what matters to our patients,” while Tiffany challenged us to reconsider our perspective, asking, “What would happen if we admired our patients rather than pitied them?” and reminded us, “There is room for compassion on both ends of the bed.”
This idea of the need to connect, of a “both/and” versus an “either/or” in many ways is in direct conflict with much of the political and cultural climate in which we find ourselves today, where extremes are elevated and common ground eroded. This too represents that very boundary on which I believe we can thrive. It is through this expanded perspective on what actually matters that we realize we are talking about something much bigger – we are moving to a focus on the human experience at the heart of healthcare.
As I have reflected on this “evolution” in our journey, what I believe we have been doing is driving back to the very purpose on which healthcare was initially grounded. Before there were systems and structures, methods and machines, there was one human being engaging with another, one committed to help and one in need. It required both to participate, it took both to succeed…and it still does.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon recently said that while he frequently gets the question: 'What's going to change in the next 10 years?' he almost never gets the question: 'What's not going to change in the next 10 years?'. His point being the second question is actually the more important of the two. It is those things that remain stable on which we can build and through which we can find our greatest success.
While we cannot predict how policy will change and in what ways or what new constraints or challenges we will face at the boundary of calm and chaos, we do know that each of us in the business of human beings caring for human beings will continue to have choices. While they are not necessary choices in what illness or disease may befall you, you do have the choice of how you believe you deserve to be treated, in what ways you want to be treated and therefore ultimately where you will choose to be cared for. You have choices in how you will care for others, in what you will do to understand what matters to them and to you and ultimately choices in how you will care for yourself as someone committed to helping others.
That is the essence of human experience. That is the essence of healthcare. Where we go from here depends on that idea. We can use the uncertainty of the moment or the lack of clarity or variability of what lies ahead as a distraction, or even an excuse, or we can focus on what matters at our core. In our efforts to focus forward, I offer four considerations:
1. Intention and clarity matter.
The growing number of organizations defining what experience is for their organization reinforces that a clear intention and shared commitment to that purpose is central to any opportunity to drive excellence in healthcare.
2. Consistency is the antidote to uncertainty.
When the ground feels unstable we must find places of strength on which to support ourselves. Being consistent in efforts to elevate and expand experience excellence is a central way to remain focused on purpose, ensure positive outcomes and manage through uncertainty.
3. Shared understanding/ownership will change how we work.
The opportunity now presents itself to move beyond engaging people at the personal level, to activating them as co-owners in their care. This is more than a focus on centeredness, which represents a one-way relationship, to a dynamic sense of shared awareness and understanding in which all engaged contribute to outcomes.
4. Listen to understand ALL the voices that comprise the healthcare ecosystem.
There must also be a commitment to listening at the broadest levels in healthcare to understand what drives people’s choices, what motivates their actions and why this work is important overall. In acknowledging that each voice in the process is critical we also reinforce the value and purpose that had people choose healthcare as a place to work and elevate those receiving care (as Tiffany challenged us) from passive participants to individuals we should admire.
As we move into 2018 we will push this idea further, learning from each of you, honoring the voices of all engaged in healthcare, truly clarifying what matters to those impacted by what healthcare chooses to do and ultimately reinforcing that in each of those choices we each make tiny ripples that touch thousands and thousands of lives around our globe. That is the opportunity for us as we look to the year ahead and beyond, to thrive at the boundary on which we find ourselves and use the energy that this dynamic tension creates to spur us on. In doing so, with our eyes forward and our hearts grounded in the human experience, we can continue to change healthcare for the better for one another and for all it serves.
Jason A. Wolf, PhD, CPXP
The Beryl Institute