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The Beryl Institute Patient Experience Blog
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A Gift Not a Burden

Posted By Deanna Frings, MS Ed, CPXP, Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Memorial Day has just past and my thoughts keep going back to the long weekend spending much of it with family. It was raining most of the day and so I wasn’t able to put out our American flag as I typically do. I missed this simple ritual because as I’m placing the flag in its holder on the front of the house, I’m reflecting on the purpose for this holiday, connecting to the gratitude I feel (the sadness too) for those that have lost their lives in service to our country. While it’s a somber moment, I embrace the heaviness. It’s the least I can do.

That evening my husband and I ended our day watching the movie Saving Private Ryan. For those that don’t know the story, it takes place during the invasion of Normandy in WWII. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) has orders to lead his team behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Experiencing the brutal realties of war, as they search for Private Ryan, each solider set out on a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage. Near the end of the movie, Captain John Miller is fatally injured. His final words to Private Ryan are, “Earn this.”

Some might think as I did, that this is a huge burden to lay on someone. My husband however, shared that maybe it’s a gift rather than a burden. To quote him exactly, “A gift even more valuable than his life being saved because it gives his life a purpose, to make their sacrifice worth something.”

What are the lessons we can apply in our own lives? If we use Memorial Day not as a single day to honor or remember the fallen, but as a day to remind ourselves of our duty to honor them every day by our actions, we make the country stronger. Can we use these same lessons to make our healthcare systems stronger?

At the Institute, our purpose is Changing healthcare by advancing an unwavering commitment to the human experience. We do this with and alongside you, the patient experience community. Whether it’s through our On the Road experiences, collaborating with you on White Papers, gathering at our PX Pop Ups, engaging in conversations during our PX Body of Knowledge classes or hosting our monthly webinars, we see you doing it with honor. The many actions you take every day are making the experiences of those you serve better and our health systems stronger.

Having a clearly defined purpose can be a powerful guide to action and I don’t think we have to make it too difficult or overly complex. As leaders in healthcare, I also encourage you to find opportunities to share your own personal journey with those that depend on you. Share what patient experience means to you, why you think it’s important and what you believe your team does every day that positively impacts the experiences of others. These simple actions when done with courage, strength and humility honor your teams and opens the door for them to connect to their purpose and make greater meaning of their day to day actions.

Those that work in healthcare often witness the courage with which patients and families face the fear and the uncertainly that comes with a personal healthcare event or serious diagnosis such as cancer. This alone is a great reminder of the purpose for the work that we do in striving to make the experience more comforting, easier to navigate and to embrace the heaviness and fatigue that can come with this type of work. I hope you see it as a privilege to share their burden and fears with care, comfort and compassion.

Our purpose lives on because of you. It will be through our collective voice and the actions we take together that we celebrate this gift that is given to us. The gift of striving to make healthcare more accessible and the human experience better and doing it with honor and gratitude. It’s the least we can do.

 

Deanna Frings, MS Ed, CPXP
Vice President, Learning and Professional Development
The Beryl Institute

Tags:  encouragement  honor  humility  leaders  memorial day  purpose  sacrifice 

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When Work Has Meaning

Posted By Deanna Frings, Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Updated: Friday, July 6, 2018

The title of this blog is not original to me but was a headline on the cover of the July-August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) referencing an article, Creating A Purpose-Driven Organization. It seems everywhere I turn, there is another book, article or referenced research on the neuroscience of purpose as a driving force that gives our lives meaning. And let me be clear, I love that there is currently an abundance of discussion on purpose and meaning. 

 

I have worked in healthcare my entire career from being on the front line as a respiratory therapist, leading teams in multiple leadership capacities to my current role as Vice President of Learning and Professional Development of The Beryl Institute. From my experience, conversations on meaning and purpose are not uncommon in the field of healthcare. I don’t know, maybe it’s because those of us who work in healthcare can easily connect that what we do really matters? We save lives. But how is this knowledge being lived out in our day to day practice as leaders in healthcare. Are we creating cultures that facilitate a discovery of purpose for ourselves and our employees? 

 

Organizations are focused on employee engagement and acknowledge its critical role in their experience efforts as reported in our, State of Patient Experience 2017: A Return to Purpose. And, it’s not surprising given the 2017 Gallup State of American Workplace report, that only 33% of employees are engaged in their work and workplace and only 21% of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. 

These startling figures are not a new phenomenon. Previous Gallup Reports have shown much of the same. So, while we acknowledge the importance of an engaged workforce, the data suggests we continue to struggle, despite all the focus on improving it. 

I often speak on the critical role of leaders in achieving experience excellence and I would suggest that leadership is the critical link in transforming organizational cultures and creating engaged environments where individuals can reach their full potential. During these speaking engagements and workshops, I love taking people through a journey of discovery of purpose and meaning and I have witnessed the immediate and powerful impact it has. I hear a higher level of excitement in their voices, a clarity in vision and a drive in their commitment as they share their stories with each other. 

The conversation continues as we take the critical next step and determine actions we, as leaders, can take to not only share our purpose but invite employees to do the same. It’s one way to connect people to purpose. Simply stated in the HBR article, leaders most important role is to connect people to purpose.

Acting on a higher purpose can often motivate us to learn and develop our skills so we can excel in our performance contributing to what’s meaningful to us. It’s one reason I’m excited about Patient Experience 101(PX 101), a new educational resource releasing next week from The Beryl Institute. PX 101 is a comprehensive community-inspired and developed resource to build patient experience knowledge and skill for all employees across an organization by taking individuals through a discovery of purpose. It’s one of several new opportunities we’re launching this year in an effort to support global patient experience efforts based on the needs of our community. 

PX 101 offers the tools and activities you need to engage in deeper and authentic conversations on what patient experience is, what it means to your employees and how they positively impact experience excellence. It invites them to share their own accounts of how they make a positive difference resulting in a stronger sense of purpose and meaning to the work they do every day. 

 

When we find meaning and purpose in our work, the sky’s the limit to how high we can soar and how much we can contribute to our individual and organization’s success.  

As leaders in healthcare striving for excellence in experience, how do you connect people to purpose?


Deanna Frings, MS Ed, CPXP
Vice President, Learning and Professional Development
The Beryl Institute

Tags:  choice  compassion  culture  employee engagement  healthcare  improving patient experience  leadership  Patient Experience  personal experience  perspective  purpose 

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Do You See What I See?

Posted By Tiffany Christensen, Monday, December 4, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

As a person who lives with cystic fibrosis and has had 2 double lung transplants, I have experienced many stages of illness. I have understood from a very young age that having this illness is something people feel badly about and sometimes even wonder why “bad things happen to good people.”

But what if we have it wrong? What if illness isn’t the worst-case scenario? What if instead of looking at me with pity, I should be looking at you with pity because you don’t see what I see?

In my lifelong career as a patient, I have had people respond to me in all kinds of ways. The reactions were more pronounced as I grew sicker and they reached their peak during the time I wore oxygen. When I was wearing oxygen, some people would stare, some people would look away and others would approach me and say things that often caught me off guard. One man in Target said, “You shouldn’t have smoked so much.” One woman in Macy’s said, “I’ll pray for you.” My cousin asked, “Why would God do this to you?” Almost all of the people I encountered said—with their eyes— “You poor thing, I’m so glad I’m not you.”

While the intentions were almost always good and the reactions easily explained as a reflection of each person’s internal relationship with life, death and uncertainty, none of them ever hit the mark.  Nobody I came across ever reflected back to me what my perception of myself happened to be.

I felt physically weak, yes, but everything else about me felt strong. I felt connected to the universe, I felt a strong understanding of my purpose in this world and I felt lucky to have the lessons of illness laid before my feet day after day. The very last thing I wanted was pity. If anything, I would have liked admiration.

Imagine for a moment a patient laying in a hospital bed. They are curled up slightly around themselves, pale in the face and not very interested in interaction. Imagine walking in to see that patient. What might you think? What words come to mind? Vulnerable? Sad? Weak?

Now imagine walking into that same room with a very different lens. If you could see into that person’s mind, what do you think you would find there? Simply because they are not talking does not mean they aren’t thinking. Just because they aren’t emoting does not mean they aren’t feeling. So why are they so quiet? What are they doing?

They are enduring. They are bracing themselves against pain or discomfort. This takes energy and concentration. This takes a great deal of STRENGTH.

What if, like a marathon runner grimacing as they finish their final miles, we looked at the patient curled up in the bed and did not see weakness but, instead, saw determination and grit? What if we encouraged them, like we would do on the sidelines watching athletes riding their bikes in an Iron Man, telling them “You’re doing great! I know it’s hard but you’re amazing!” What if we stopped pitying people who are sick and saw them as people we could learn great lessons from? How would this change the way we deliver our healthcare?

Being sick is often an isolating experience. Not only because of the physical symptoms that limit our ability to live an active life, but because of the perception of weakness others project onto us. As I shared earlier in this post, during the time that I wore oxygen, I had a lot of comments from friends, family and strangers about my appearance of health. What I almost never received were questions. I longed for questions rather than statements. Here are just a few that I would have liked to hear:

  • “I know you have bad days and better days. On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s today?”
  • “Is there something I could do right now to make your life a little easier?”
  • “I want to support you and I’ve never experienced anything like what you are going through. Can you help me understand what life is like for you?”
  • “You know I love you and I worry about you, but I’m feeling strong today. Is there anything you want to talk about that you’ve been keeping inside because you were afraid it would be too hard for me to talk about?”

And then there is this one statement I longed to hear:

  • “Caring for you while you go through this illness is really hard. Sometimes I get sad, angry…you name it. But, I want you to know, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Having you is worth every second of this struggle.”

The internal world of sick people isn’t always going to match mine so this is by no means a prescription. At the same time, nothing bad can come from seeing patients differently. If you see them as strong, perhaps they will gain more strength. If you ask them questions, they may not always want to talk about it in that moment, but they know where to go when they do.

Illness forces us to focus on what matters in this life. Let those who live with it be our teachers while we admire them as they take on their personal marathon. I hope you can begin to see what I see and watch how it shapes the way we deliver care.

 

Tiffany Christensen
Vice President, Experience Innovation
The Beryl Institute

Planning to attend the IHI National Forum later this month? Join Tiffany Christensen’s Keynote session with Dr. Rana Awdish, MD, lead by IHI President Derek Feeley, as the two women touch on how they are using their patient experiences to improve healthcare. You can also join Tiffany during Sunday’s Learning Lab, the CEO Summit and her “meet the author” luncheon. 

Tags:  communication  impact  improving patient experience  perception  purpose  relational healthcare 

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It is Time for the Experience Era

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., Thursday, May 5, 2016
Updated: Thursday, May 5, 2016

Just three weeks ago as we gathered at Patient Experience Conference 2016 I challenged our participants and the public watching us live that this is our moment in patient experience. If we look to make the kind of change we believe is needed in our new healthcare world, we must work to ensure the conversation on patient experience now rests at the heart of healthcare itself.

This commitment to experience requires a macro-perspective and one I continue to reinforce every chance I can. Patient (and family, resident, elder, etc.) experience is not just about satisfaction or even essential efforts such as patient engagement or approaches such as patient- and family-centeredness. Rather experience is ALL someone has in their encounter with a healthcare organization, be it in a clinical setting at the bedside or exam room, scheduling an appointment, engaging with a bill, and even communicating with a friend at a community event or while at the local market. Every one of these interactions shape the experience someone has, they shape the story someone carries with them about it and influences their perceptions and ultimately their actions.

The bottom line is that in your healthcare organization and the thousands around the world that are engaging with or attending to the needs of their customers right now, you are providing an experience. The question is, are you strategically planning for and addressing it? In a consumer driven healthcare world, regardless of national system, policy incentives or other supports or constraints, the ultimate opportunity is to ensure experience is not simply left to chance. Rather it should be part of the very fiber of your organization, representing the kind of encounters you hope to provide and the outcomes you look to achieve. Yes, at its core, experience encompasses all we tackle in healthcare from quality, safety and service interactions to the implications of cost and the influence that outcomes have on public, systemic and personal health decisions.

I also believe as the experience movement coalesces around these core ideas it has the opportunity to stand with conviction, grounded in evidence, to declare that experience drives the very outcomes we look to achieve in healthcare: clinical outcomes, financial results, consumer loyalty and community reputation. In the latest issue of Patient Experience Journal, I offer, "An investment in a strong and positive patient experience is the leading choice you can and should be making in healthcare today. The results of this decision will only lead to even greater and lasting results.”

This then may be our simple, yet significant call to action. That we recognize and act on the reality that experience encompasses all we do in healthcare and drives the outcomes we aspire to. In that light it brings us to reflect on a new era in healthcare. Thanks to insights from Don Berwick in challenging us to consider a third (what he calls the moral) era, I hope to push us further. Beyond just acknowledging the operational considerations he suggests as we look at how healthcare as a system progresses, we too must look at healthcare for all it was intended to and still must strive to accomplish. It is time to place the human experience back at the heart of healthcare. It is time for the experience era.

The experience era calls us to consider 8 fundamental actions:

  • Acknowledge experience is a global movement
  • Recognize experience encompasses all we do
  • Remember in experience all voices matter
  • Focus on value from the perspective of the consumer
  • Ensure transparency for accessibility & understanding
  • Measure & incent what matters
  • Share wildly and steal willingly
  • Reignite our commitment to purpose

If we move forward with purpose and choose to align our efforts with an experience mindset, we not only welcome the experience era; we reignite the heart of healthcare itself. With a focus on those we care for and serve and a commitment to those who provide care and support those efforts every day, we can build the most healthy and vibrant system of care the world has ever seen. It will take all voices to do this, all nations to commit, all systems to realign themselves and all organizations to focus their intention. It will take all of us to make the choice that experience matters and then act. That is the opportunity we now have in front of us…I am ready for our first steps forward together.

 

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

Tags:  aligning efforts  commitment  encounters  experience era  interaction  movement  Patient Experience Conference  purpose  value 

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