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To Care is Human: 3 Considerations for the Future of Patient Experience

Posted By Jason Wolf, Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2018

This has been an exciting year for the patient experience movement in which an unwavering commitment to human experience has been elevated and expanded globally. In our efforts at the Institute we have had the opportunity to engage the voices of healthcare consumers on their views of experience and what drives their decisions, we introduced the Experience Framework to reinforce the integrated nature of the human experience in healthcare and now just last week released our latest study on the influence factors on patient experience.

This is significant in that in linking these efforts together we begin to see for the first time in practice and evidence that there is alignment around what we can and should do to ensure experience excellence. This work lays out a pathway that while not surprising has been sometimes difficult to ensure a commitment to in a healthcare system driven by transactions, checklists and processes that overlook the very essence of healthcare itself – the human caring at its heart.

I shared a story to open Patient Experience Conference 2018 about how my son Sam taught me a valuable lesson in the power of human connection and how simple and brave we must be to ensure these connections occur. He showed me sometimes it just takes commitment, the willingness to reach out and acknowledge another human being in front of you for who they are, not what they have or what they do. This too is what consumers told us they wanted, and it is what we discovered in the findings of the Influence Factors Study as well.

For the Influence Factors Study, over 1400 respondents identified the factors of greatest importance to patient experience. In addition, almost 300 high performing healthcare units (as defined by achieving and sustaining high percentage of scores in the top box of 9-10 in the overall rating question on the CAHPS survey) representing 175 organizations provided input as well.

The study revealed that for both respondent groups how patients and family were treated and how they were communicated with had the greatest influence on experience. This was followed closely by the teamwork and engagement of care teams and core clinical indicators such as responsible management of pain and care coordination. Interestingly enough what was shared here, that is that experience is driven by 1) how we treat people we serve, (2) how we treat each other and (3) how we provide the quality people expect, perhaps provides the triangulation of factors that sums up the potential of and opportunity for an elevated commitment to the human experience in healthcare overall.

This discovery reinforces that at the end of the day our opportunity to care for one another as human beings is the essence of our work in healthcare. This was supported in the alignment of the influence factor responses with the voices in the study, Consumer Perspectives on Patient Experience released this summer, which found that that top-rated items of importance to consumers were, in order, ‘listen to you’, ‘communicate clearly in a way you can understand’ and ‘treat you with courtesy and respect’. The most significant realization in this finding in comparison to what were identified as the top influence factors was that not only were the top items nearly identical, in essence effective communication and respectful treatment, but also that these items scored significantly higher response percentages in both studies. This had them stand out clearly as the top items in both surveys and coming from two very distinct respondent groups.

What this means is that what people are asking for from healthcare, it is evident healthcare organizations know and high performers provide. So, then what has been in our way of meeting those expectations and needs? I offer it has been healthcare’s commitment to process at the expense of people and transactions at the expense of interactions that has undercut its very capacity to achieve this ultimate goal.

This is not offered to diminish the complexity of healthcare we face today, but rather to call us to ask if we are the reason for the very complexity that gets in our way. If we were to focus on these simple things, to build processes, programs, technologies and innovations to support and sustain this focus on the humanity in healthcare, would we see something very different in how we look to lead healthcare globally. That is our opportunity and the story I hope you will find of interest in our latest paper: To Care Is Human: The Factors Influencing Human Experience in Healthcare Today.

With this we are called in healthcare to come back to ground with three considerations that can help us all lead the experience effort forward. These include:

  1. Patient experience must be seen with an integrated focus that ties together the many facets impacting how human beings on both sides of the care equation experience healthcare. It must be operationalized with this broad and inclusive perspective.
  2. Experience excellence, at its heart, is about the relational interactions we have in healthcare. It is grounded in the kind of organizations we build to sustain quality, safe and effective healthcare for all engaged. We must move beyond simple transactions and find comfort in the human complexities that are at healthcare’s core.
  3. To care is human and above all else that must be a rallying cry for what healthcare can and must be. Yes, medicine is a complex science, but healthcare is not just about medicine. When we mix that science with the art that healthcare ultimately represents, we get a symphony comprised of the greatest experts, but one that only works when all those expert parts play together. And if we do that, the outcome will be truly magnificent.

The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “The human capacity to care for others isn’t something trivial or something to be taken for granted. Rather, it is something we should cherish.” I would add it is something we must acknowledge will require hard work, unwavering commitment, a willingness to try and fail and a focused commitment to excellence.

The things healthcare has shown it knows to be true and the things consumers are asking for consistently come down to something so essential I could be blamed for saying it too much – that in healthcare we are human beings caring for human beings. So, whether I am walking the halls of a VA facility or waiting in an essential hospital’s emergency room, seeking new research innovations from an academic medical center or being cared for in my rural healthcare center, or standing on any continent in any health system, in any healthcare setting across the continuum around the world for that matter, this universal truth remains.

It then is up to us to consider how we balance the science that has driven healthcare with the art that is what will enable it to ultimately succeed.  We can no longer say that all people want is for us to make them better. That has been healthcare’s driving outcome, but for the patients and families we serve, it has been a fundamental expectation that we do so. Where the real difference and ultimate distinction lies is in HOW we make them better, in the acknowledgement that in caring for the human in front of us and those who serve around us we are realizing the true potential healthcare has to offer.

Yes, to care is human, the evidence bears out its impact and value. And in giving ourselves the permission to hold that idea as central to all we do in healthcare we can and will reframe a system with a potential for care, wellness and healing we have only dreamed could be possible. Experience is not something else we must or should do, it is all one does in healthcare, it is time we acknowledge this and move forward with this new sense of possibility. What will be your first step?


Jason A. Wolf, PhD, CPXP
President
The Beryl Institute

Tags:  amenities  cleanliness  Clinical  defining patient experience  employee engagement  feedback  HCAHPS  Human Experience  improving patient experience  Leadership  patient and family  patient engagement  Patient Experience  policy  quality  safety  service excellence  signage  thought leadership 

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Reaffirming the Core Values of Patient Experience

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., Friday, February 3, 2017
Updated: Friday, February 3, 2017

The idea that healthcare is, at its core, about human beings caring for human beings is not a new or surprising notion, but the foundations of this concept seem more relevant today for all the challenges we in healthcare, and now in many ways those beyond, are working to overcome. As we look to where the experience movement has come from to where it is rapidly moving, we find it is grounded in the fundamentals of all that is right and good at the core of our humanity. The patient experience in healthcare is ultimately the human experience. It is encountered in every healthcare interaction and impacts and is affected by not just those receiving care, but by all engaged in ensuring it is delivered with the utmost in quality, safety and service.

I have watched the recent events taking place both in the United States and around the world with both great curiosity and some concern. The first words used to define patient experience – the sum of all interactions – may be no more important now as we work to not only be cognizant of the interactions we each have, but also to reinforce the power that exists in ensuring positive interactions are at the core of all we do. These interactions, as the definition continues, are shaped by the very culture we create and espouse in the organizations and systems we build and sustain. And this culture must be grounded in the values we hold true in guiding our decisions and framing our actions.

It seemed now was an appropriate and important time to reinforce and reaffirm the core values we introduced in late 2015 that have been central to our work at The Beryl Institute. We have also continued to find these values implicitly at work in the many organizations striving to achieve experience excellence overall. With all that is pushing and pulling at us in recent days, as people ponder the future of healthcare policy and practice and as we consider the broader implications on human connectivity, it seemed time to reiterate both our commitment to these values, as well as call on all committed to this work, and to the greater human experience, to reflect on what these ideas truly mean. I list our values below with my thoughts on their importance today:

  • ACCESSIBILITY. I have always believed in a focus on experience as in life we have a great opportunity with a mindset of abundance.  Accessibility is about fairness and equity, about providing opportunity and the ability to connect to information and people, and to do so in a way that removes barriers to and actively encourages engagement and a free exchange of ideas.
  • AGILITY. In a world that is no longer measured by years or even months, but rather pushed on one side by rapid increases in technology and on the other by ceaseless waves of information, people and the organizations they comprise must be anything but static in thought, process or action. It is no longer about readiness to change, but the ability to be changing always, while ensuring consistency to your commitments and desired outcomes.
  • INNOVATION. The same pressures that call for our agility require we no longer look backward for how things can, have or should be done. In listening, exploring, doing and being willing to fail we push the very boundaries that could otherwise restrain our ability to move with (and if intentional in our efforts, lead) the very changes we need.
  • INCLUSIVITY. This idea at the heart of experience may be no more critical than today. From all voices matter in patient experience to underlining all voices matter, perspectives have value, diversity adds flavor and difference catalyzes opportunities for even greater outcomes. We cannot and must not let fear or worse, lack of understanding, cause us to shrink from one another when it is the very interactions we create, engage in and encourage that will remain fundamental to the human experience. On this we must remain steadfast.
  • COLLABORATION. At the roots of the Institute itself was the belief that if we are willing to share our ideas openly, without hesitation, we would reap greater returns than we could working alone in the dark. This idea of connection has been essential to our own growth and exemplifies a great opportunity we still have overall. If we all believe we are here for an ultimate goal, be it experience excellence, or something greater, it calls on us to find the bridges that lead us to connection and opportunity, not the chasms that seed distinctions, misunderstanding and missed possibility.

We are at an exciting time in the experience movement. I believe we are entering an experience era that reinforces all that is good about what each and every one of you strive to do each day in working to personally heal and/or provide healing for others. In each of our personal journeys is a great opportunity to travel this path with not only an understanding of ourselves, but perhaps more so with an unwavering commitment to others. In reaffirming the values we hold true to patient experience, we are making a statement about all we believe is right and good as human beings caring for human beings around the world. That must remain our cause.

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

Tags:  collaboration  commitment  community of practice  connection  culture  experience era  global  healthcare policy  policy  values 

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