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How Will You Inspire the Patient Experience Movement? Four Considerations for 2014

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I am inspired. The New Year has arrived with great energy at The Beryl Institute. We start 2014 as a global community of practice of over 20,000 professionals, focused without hesitation on ensuring the best in experience for patients, families and one another in healthcare.

I am inspired by the continued commitments expressed for this work: by The Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Scholars who met recently to share their research and reinforce their willingness to encourage and support others; by the members of the Global Patient & Family Advisory Council who want to influence how patients and family members are heard and engaged in making a profound difference in healthcare; by the many contributing to the development of the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge courses soon to be available to the community; and by many more.

I am inspired by how in the first two weeks of a new year, such commitment and intent can emerge, built on all that has come before and focused with purpose on the great opportunities ahead. As I reflect on this idea, a question emerged and perhaps a challenge for each of us to consider:

How will you inspire the patient experience movement in the year ahead?

I pose this question with the hope that actions and considerations from the smallest moments of unparalleled kindness to the largest strategic triumphs all find room to take root and grow. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, but in this diversity it has strong commonalities – it causes us to feel a sense of something special and powerful. It provides a boundless energy to influence, lead, change and make a difference. This is an exciting prospect in seeing that each of us can choose to have an impact. And while no two actions will be exactly alike, I do want to offer a few thoughts on how you can continue to frame your patient experience efforts to inspire yourself and others.

As we return to the definition of patient experience, I continue to experience its relevance time-and-time again in the application of these words to central actions associated with excellence. In reviewing its words – the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care – I again see clear directions on moving your own experience efforts forward. They include:

1. Reinforce strategic focus. Patient experience has proven itself to be a relevant part of the healthcare conversation. It has surpassed the challenges of being dubbed a fad; it too has shown it has stronger legs than just serving as a policy framework. Experience is a central strategic pillar to organizational performance and success. Patient Experience in its broadest sense should be a clear and transparent component of every healthcare organization’s strategy.

2. Clarify and map your critical interactions. Experience doesn’t happen on billboards or in espoused actions, it happens at the most personal moments, at those points of engagement between one individual and another. The ultimate tool in patient experience improvement is your self, your heart, your hands and arms, your minds, your compassion and your common sense. We have a huge opportunity to map the interactions that occur on the patient path to ensure we consider the most effective way to respond at every touch point.

3. Model desired behaviors. Simply put, if interactions drive experience, then the behaviors that comprise them are the conduits that direct these interactions in one way or another. Organizational culture is shaped by behaviors, they represent the people, presence and purpose of an organization overall and no slogan, policy or program will trump the power of individual behavior. We must model, observe, coach and improve constantly to impact experience outcomes.

4. Expand your listening. As we ended 2013 exploring the Voices of Measurement, we learned that the power of data is only as valid as what we choose to do with it. Collection or reporting data for the sake of data misses the opportunity for learning and relevant action. To capitalize on the value of the voices that surround us in healthcare we must expand our listening. Experience is measured first in the direct voices of healthcare consumers, who remain our most significant mirror into our own efforts, but it is also found in the voices of our peers and colleagues. We are only capable of achieving our strategy through our people. They are much more than pawns to direct, but rather living resources accountable for ensuring excellence.

Perhaps these ideas will help spark your own thoughts on how you will choose to inspire the patient experience movement. Regardless of which direction you go, I hope you recognize the power that exists in your own personal choice and the ability to impact the experience of the person that is coming next. The year ahead can and should be about a great many things both personally and professionally. My hope is that you find you can and will be an inspiration in your efforts. This cause is too great for your efforts to be anything less. Now the question remains, what will you do? I look forward to your updates with great anticipation.

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

Tags:  accountability  Advocacy  body of knowledge  choice  community of practice  consumer advocacy  Continuum of Care  culture  defining patient experience  employee engagement  Field of Patient Experience  global defining patient experience  global healthcare  HCAHPS  healthcare  improving patient experience  Interaction  Interactions  patient  patient engagement  Patient Experience  service excellence  thought leadership  voice 

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Patient Experience is About More than Making Patients Happy

Posted By Deanna Frings, Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My dearest friend recently received news that her breast cancer is back after 11 years of remission. She struggles daily with eating enough to maintain a healthy weight, feeling strong and motivated enough to walk in the pool to build her strength, and to find relief from the constant pain. I’m not sure the word happy is in her vocabulary these days. But expressions of gratitude, a decrease in her anxiety, and a feeling of comfort are certainly emotions she has experienced when interacting with her healthcare team.

During the past several years in my various roles leading patient experience efforts, I have had frequent conversations with physicians, leaders, and clinical staff about what patient experience is, what it’s not and why these efforts are so important.

Some physicians express frustration about measuring patient satisfaction. After all, "It’s impossible to make every patient happy, why are we spending so much time and money sending surveys?” I have also experienced hospital administrators share their belief that if staff would just be nicer to people, the scores would improve. And, I have witnessed nurses and other clinical staff push back on patient experience activities saying, "We are not Disney, we are not here to make sure people have a good time, we are here to take care of patients.”

As I think about the evolution of the Patient Experience (PX) movement, I understand these various viewpoints. My PX journey began when the organization I worked for hired a consultant to teach the importance of customer service. After about 18 months, this turned into an initiative called "Service Excellence: Our Values in Action”. We continued on this journey for 5-8 years and recently the language and movement changed to what we know today as Patient Experience. I fully embraced this change, as it is a demonstration of applying our ongoing learning of what PX is really all about.

I don’t believe the goal of delivering the best to the patient and their families should be framed within the context of making them happy. I don’t believe patients give us the gift of their feedback, respond to a survey or write a heartfelt note because people simply made them happy. I believe it’s about so much more.

I tell physicians that patient satisfaction surveys do not measure patient happiness, but they can determine whether you listened with a compassionate ear as they expressed their concerns and worries.

I vividly recall reading a letter from the niece of a patient after her uncle died. She expressed her deepest gratitude not only for the care and compassion her uncle received but also for the care and comfort she received at a most difficult time in her life. The letter she wrote focused on the nurse who called to inform her that her uncle passed away in the middle of the night. This nurse went on to explain that he did not die alone. Hearing this brought instant comfort to the niece. Was she expressing happiness in her letter? Of course not. Rather, she was thanking this nurse for the compassionate way in which she shared this difficult news.

I’m not saying that in healthcare we should not be nice to people or that those simple courtesies are not important parts of the way we deliver care. What I am saying is that we must reach higher, go deeper, and deliver care in the most compassionate way. That is why I fully embrace the next evolution in our PX journey.

Fred Lee talks about this in his three levels of care framework. Wendy Leebov’s works with clinicians building their skill in compassionate communications and Colleen Sweeneyraises awareness in patient’s biggest healthcare fears in her Empathy Project.

Hospitals, clinics, outpatient centers etc, do not have the same goals as Disney. We must look beyond the happiness factor. We must comfort, care, listen and convey compassion in every interaction. That is what the patient experience is all about and why I’m more than happyto listen to what our patients have to say about their healthcare experience.

Deanna LW Frings
Director, Education & Professional Development
The Beryl Institute

Related Body of Knowledge courses: Patient & Family Centeredness.

Tags:  choice  defining patient experience  Field of Patient Experience  global defining patient experience  HCAHPS  improving patient experience  Patient Experience  perception  service excellence  storytelling  value-based purchasing 

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Patient Experience: A Global Opportunity and a Local Solution

Posted By Jason A. Wolf Ph.D. CPXP, Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Last week we held the second call of the new Global Patient Experience Network supported by The Beryl Institute. The call included Institute members from eight countries and spread across 18 time zones. Despite our differences in location, time of day, native language or accent, when the conversation started, we discovered that the concepts at the core of improving patient experience are fundamentally the same. Providing the best in experience for patients, families and the communities (and countries) we serve is an unwavering focus for people across healthcare systems and functions around the world.

As I listened to the conversation and we dug deeper in identifying what posed the greatest challenges and offered significant opportunities for improving patient experience, I was struck by the recognition (and even relief) that participants showed in how similar their issues were. One participant offered, "It’s comforting to know we are all contending with the same challenges and questions moving forward,” with a second individual noting, "It is amazing that at the end of the day we are all working towards the same end and facing the same issues.” This realization drew agreement and raised the excitement of the group in understanding that even with great distances between us, there are great similarities and therefore possibilities.

The group identified the same top issues central to patient experience efforts that I have seen in my travels. They included:
  • The importance of organization culture and our ability to manage change in today’s healthcare environment
  • The understanding and effective implementation of patient (and team) interaction processes from patient, physician and staff engagement and involvement to service recovery, post care follow-up and building consumer loyalty
  • The implications of measuring our patient experience efforts to gauge perception and understand the impact of each effort
  • The value of the structure of patient experience practice itself, ensuring a clear focus, supportive leadership, aligned roles and right structures to deliver on the best experience possible

While these are not the extent of the issues faced in addressing patient experience, it was evident that among peers separated by great distance, they still had closely knit similarities. This was especially significant for our team at the Institute as we have always approached our work from the belief that while systems may operate differently and policies might be distinct, the very fundamentals that drive a positive patient experience – the power of interactions, the importance of culture, the reality that perceptions matter and the realization that experience covers the continuum of care – as framed by the definition of patient experience, continues to hold true.

With this great commonality and the excitement generated in the discussion, it was also evident that our members recognized that patient experience is a local, dare I say personal effort. Each and every individual that plays a role along the care continuum has some level of responsibility. It is based on the sum of all interactions, as we suggest, that a patient and their family members gauge their own experience. Therefore in building a patient experience effort, it requires an understanding of your own organization, the people that comprise it, and the community (and demographics) that you serve. Patient experience success is not driven by a one model fits all solution, it is and forever should be something that meets the need of your organization and your patients whether in San Diego or Sydney, New York or New Delhi. Ultimately, patient experience is a global issue, but it is and will continue to be up to each of us locally to bring these grand ideas, the critical practices, and the day-to-day needs to life in every encounter. There is a great opportunity we have been given to move beyond policy to true cause, beyond process to effective practice and beyond "have tos” to "always dos”, that will impact the lives of patients and families globally. I have always suggested it is a choice…I maintain that and hope it is part of all our resolutions for positive and healthy New Year!

In reflecting on the launch of the Global Network and other Institute efforts in 2012, it is clear that this has been an amazing year for our growing global community, with now over 11,000 members and guests in 28 countries focused on improving the patient experience. We have all committed to something noble and important, the best possible experience and the health and well being for our fellow man. And we have been given a great opportunity, to turn a global need into something each and every one of us can impact directly. Happy Holidays to you all and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow together in the year ahead.

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

Related Body of Knowledge courses: History.

Tags:  choice  culture  employee engagement  global defining patient experience  global healthcare  healthcare  improving patient experience  Interaction  patient engagement  Patient Experience  perception  service recovery 

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