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A Patient’s Wish List: Executing a Better Patient Experience

Posted By Tiffany Christensen, Wednesday, October 11, 2017

As the newest member of The Beryl Institute Team, I want to begin by stating how honored I feel to be brought in as the Vice President of Experience Innovation. I started my new role on October 1, 2017 and the timing could not have been better because my first day on the job meant a trip to Southlake, TX for a quarterly in-person staff meeting.

Since I have been a long-time friend and board member of the Institute, it was not a shock to me when I learned that Jason Wolf, President, had assigned the team a book to read for our upcoming (my first) staff strategy meeting. I’ll call it “Jason’s Book Club.” The title of the book was Execution: The Art of Getting Things Done.

I’ll be honest and say that the first few pages worried me because I immediately noticed this was primarily a book about business theory. I have my strengths and having a mind for business is not one I would put at the top of the list.

Turns out, I was familiar with this “world” after all because I have experienced a lot of the dynamics the book explores while working in a hospital and working as a consultant.

According to Execution, the first “building block” of running a successful business requires leaders to cultivate “emotional fortitude.” The authors go so far as to state that “leaders in contemporary organizations may be able to get away with emotional weakness for a brief time” but “emotional weakness will destroy both the leader and the organization.” In reading this, I certainly thought of the leaders we have running hospitals and regulatory bodies but it’s so much more than that. When the book outlined what it takes to achieve emotional fortitude, I felt like I might have been reading my patient wish list:

  • Authenticity
  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Mastery
  • Humility

It’s obvious to everyone that patients and families react differently to illness or injury. Part of what makes working in healthcare so challenging is the simple fact that what makes one person feel safe and cared for may feel like an intrusion or a lack of caring to the person in the room down the hall. With that said, there are some universalities to the patient experience that lend themselves to a core set of needs.

Authenticity. Being a patient usually brings with it some level of emotional “rawness.” Simply put, getting in touch with one’s vulnerability and mortality often brings with it a sense of urgency to cut through some of our society’s typical superficial layers and get to the heart of things. Whether this is the heart of the diagnosis or the heart of what brings life meaning, patients and families crave authenticity from loved ones and the professionals caring for them. For example, as we work to find our True North in creating a better experience, sometimes professionals bring an overly cheery attitude into the room. While this has the best of intentions, it can often rub patients and families the wrong way because it feels incongruous to the patient’s current state. When professionals are not able to acknowledge the tone of the patient or family, they are not able to meet this need for authenticity and the ability to effectively communicate may be impacted.

Self-Awareness. Just as every patient in a healthcare setting is human, so too are the professionals caring for patients. Despite what we seem to be asking of our healthcare professionals in today’s climate, no one person can be all things to all people. Those who know their own strengths and weakness have the opportunity to consciously craft the best possible approach to working with patients and families. As one works on their weaknesses, they can also call upon their team members to support patients and families in ways that may not come as easily to them. Some people explain clinical information very well while others do a better job sitting with those who are grieving a loss or new diagnosis. It is essential that healthcare professionals not expect themselves to be perfect or responsible for meeting every need of every patient/family member. However, by practicing self-awareness, teams can be honest with each other about who is best to serve in what capacity to meet the needs of those they serve. It goes without saying that this level of self-awareness combined with the willingness to strategize around it, requires all of the other characteristics explored here.

Self-Mastery. Being a patient can also bring with it a level of fear or frustration that makes a person behave outside of themselves. To say it more plainly, patients are often at their worst and this can be reflected in behavior that can be read as rude, erratic or impatient. Without Self-Mastery, it is easy to match a patient’s tone of negativity and even take their behavior personally. When healthcare professionals don’t practice self-mastery and they become emotionally effected by a patient’s poor behavior, they may visit the patient less, fail to engage them in co-designing the treatment plan and speak to them in a way that has unpleasant undertones. Self-Mastery is certainly the tallest of the orders in this list. A lack of it also holds the greatest potential for the team to break down and for everyone to feel disrespected. As it relates to satisfaction for patients, families and providers, this is arguably the most important ingredient.

Humility. Humility is a quality that likely does not need much of an illustration. A person who is not humble is often perceived as a person who is not keen on considering the opinions and perspectives of others. In the larger picture, humility is key to patient safety. If a provider cannot humble themselves to take concerns, corrections or stories seriously, they may miss crucial information and possibly make a mistake in the diagnosis or treatment of their patient. As a patient, the possibility of not being heard can evoke fear and frustration. I believe this is because, on a conscious or unconscious level, patients and families know instinctively that a lack of humility is a safety issue.  

If your heart is heavy thinking about being both clinically excellent AND dedicated to personal growth, please don’t despair. This list is not just for healthcare professionals. As we continue to explore what it means for a patients and families to be authentic members of the healthcare team, we should also turn this list around to be a set of goals for patients and families.

Imagine the team dynamic if patients, families and providers all were working at authenticity, self-awareness, self-mastery and humility. This team would be filled with honesty, vulnerability and a clear focus in collaboration and co-designing care. Perhaps these are those intangible elements of patient and family engagement that are hard to measure but quite obvious when absent. Perhaps we could use these characteristics as the anchors to a vision for the ideal in healthcare teamwork. And, just think, all of these components of emotional fortitude came from business people! Sincerely, I am grateful for Jason’s Book Club pick, Execution, allowing us to take a look at healthcare leadership and teamwork through a different lens; the lens of a Patient’s Wish List.


Tiffany Christensen
Vice President, Experience Innovation
The Beryl Institute

 

Source:
Bossidy, L., Charan, R., & Burck, C. (2002). Execution: The discipline of getting things done. New York: Crown Business.

Tags:  authencity  book  business  execution  humility  patient  patient advocate  patient and family engagement  reading  self-awareness  self-mastery 

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We Each Hold a Piece to the Patient Experience Puzzle

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In my most recent Hospital Impact blog I wrote:

Experience is designed to fit your organization and the people in your care. No one provider, no one vendor, no one organization holds the ultimate answer to the experience riddle. The greatest successes I see are those organizations willing to pull from the best of all they can, across all the information available, to meet their unique needs. In proceeding, choose partners and resources that value and integrate your own organizational identity in any plan. That will take you the farthest down the path to experience success.

As I further reflected on those words, I was quick to see and acknowledge a bias I bring to this work. Over the last four years in growing the Institute and through the many years of my career before, I have come to not only value, but also see the true impact that collaboration and the sharing of ideas can have in helping "raise all boats.” Yes, collaboration in organizational life is designed to collectively "raise the tide”. It is something I have often seen a lack of in the competitive landscape of healthcare overall.

I am not saying I do not believe that competition is of value, drives creativity, resourcefulness and positive outcomes; in fact I have seen it do just that. Rather, competition in the critical areas of organizational life, particularly in healthcare and specifically in the experience we provide for patients, their families and our very own staff members is not the greatest path to success. Without question, competition has been a motivating factor in experience, one seen driving action as scores are publicly reported and actual reimbursements and other financial opportunities are at stake. This is of value as the attention given to positive experience leads to better outcomes and holds the potential for establishing significant market distinction.

Yet, what I suggest is that beyond this drive for distinction, the opportunity to learn from one another provides the greatest of potential outcomes for all. The challenge is not (nor should it be) around what to do, but rather your actual commitment to do something about it. I have not visited one organization or engaged with one audience yet that did not already inherently understand the fundamentals to success in driving the best in experience. (Note in discussing experience, I maintain it is the integration of quality, safety and service encounters.) The distinguishing factor I have continued to see is leadership vision and commitment, a willingness to invest and follow through, the right people focused on the right things and the openness to reach out, share successes and learn from others. It is this focus on execution that should (and does) drive true distinction.

This very philosophy, learning from one another, especially in the experience arena, is the central ideology on which The Beryl Institute itself is built. That in creating a true community of practice, with individuals and organizations willing to share their successes and open up about their misses and needs, we have the potential for the greatest impact in healthcare today. It is about creating an organizational experience where individuals, organizations and resource providers can bring new ideas to bear as you determine the best path forward.

While this is built into everything we do throughout the year, it may be no better realized than in the few days we spend together at Patient Experience Conference or at our Regional Roundtables each year. In these few days together, hundreds of people representing hundreds of organizations around the world come together, not to declare "their” way is the right way, but rather to share their ideas as they might work for you. In bringing together the greatest number of voices, open to the broadest range of ideas, you position yourself well for success. In fact with Patient Experience Conference 2015 already on the books, I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to share your ideas via a conference submission or ensure you have your attendance slotted for your 2015 budget. You also have two great opportunities to join us and our host organizations Virginia Mason Medical Center and Boston Children’s for two great roundtable experiences.

Again, I come back to my words I shared above - no one provider, no one vendor, no one organization holds the ultimate answer to the experience riddle. I would offer they each hold a little piece of the bigger puzzle. If we are willing to engage in the dialogue, ask for what we need and share what we know, we are all better for it. Then, it is each of our jobs to ensure it is done and done well.

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

Tags:  collaboration  culture  execution  expectations  healthcare  hospital impact  improving patient experience  Patient Experience  Patient Experience Conference  Regional Roundtable 

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