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Where is the Patient in the Patient Experience?

Posted By Dorothy Sisneros, Thursday, January 8, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 5, 2015

I was watching the wonderful video by The Beryl Institute in which person after person says, "I am the patient experience.” I’ve watched this many times and each time, I feel touched and inspired. This video showcases the contribution and impact every one of us makes on patients and families.

The last time I watched, I surprised myself by having a very different response. If each of these staff members IS the patient experience, where is the PATIENT in the patient experience?

Where is the patient in the patient experience?

We might think we create the patient experience, but the patient’s preferences, goals and expectations need to drive the experience and they need to drive us to do our part in creating it. The main player and the key actor in the patient experience needs to be the patient.

How could I be the Patient Experience, when I am a constant, and every patient has a different experience? I might, for instance, have routines that I have carefully crafted to have a positive impact on each patient. I’m kidding myself if I think every patient experiences my routines the same way with a similar impact.

So, how can we include the patient in the patient experience?

By starting with the patient’s voice and ensuring that this voice guides us to personalize the experience so that it is appropriate, healing and gratifying for THIS patient NOW.

In my view, the one thing we should standardize is a process for amplifying the patient voice, so that we can personalize our part in the patient experience. The patient experience needs to be what we do WITH people, not FOR and TO them. And we need to invite the patient to be our coach to guide us through agenda-setting and the entire encounter.

Getting concrete, how would we do this?

  1. Invite the patient (and family) into the conversation immediately. Make them feel safe talking with you. "I’m here for YOU. I want to support your care and healing..." 
  2. At the start, set up the relationship as a partnership, unless the patient clearly does not want this or cannot participate. "I rely on you to tell me how you feel, what you want, and any concerns you have. I want to work together with you on your plan and then we’ll work that plan together. I see us as a team.”
  3. Ask open-ended questions and encourage multiple responses, so you can together prioritize the important few among the many. "What do you want to get out of today? And what else? And what else?” Then, "You said X, Y and Z. Tell me, which feels most important to you right now? I want us to be sure to address that!”
  4. Listen with rapt attention and respond with caring. Don’t interrupt.
  5. Show that you’ve listened by checking your understanding. "I want to be sure I understand. You feel... You want... You don’t want...”
  6. Ask yourself, knowing this about this person, how can I do my part in creating the best possible experience?
  7. Explain WHY you want to do or not do something for or with the patient before you do it. Make your intentions explicit, giving the patient the chance to say, "Yes, that works for me, or NO, that doesn’t work for me!”

Without the patient, we are not the patient experience. We have been invited to participate in the patient’s experience, not to own it.

Dorothy Sisneros is a respected healthcare leader inspiring others to achieve breakthroughs in leadership effectiveness and the patient, family and employee experience. As a Partner of Language of Caring, LLC, she has spearheaded effective implementations of the Language of Caring and breakthroughs in CAHPS scores with large health systems, hospitals and medical practices.

Tags:  family engagement  patient  Patient Experience  voice 

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