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The Invaluable Gift of Clarity

Posted By Mark VanderKlipp, Friday, January 19, 2018

With the holiday season over, your thoughts have undoubtedly turned from gift giving and New Year’s resolutions to “getting back to daily life.” As you do so, I’d encourage you to consider a resolution to provide a gift to your staff, patients and their families that keeps on giving: clarity.

In over 30 years as a designer, I’ve seen clients focus more on the tool (the identity, communication, policy, wayfinding system, mobile app, architecture, etc.) than they do on the anticipated behaviors of the people that support or interact with those tools.

To be sure, these are critical elements designed to support any patient experience initiative. My goal in writing this post is to help you see the value of designing for human interactions (engagement, connection, expectation, interaction, enlistment, orientation, learning) as well as the tools themselves.

In a 2015 HBR article1, the authors assert that “with very complex tools, the design of their ‘intervention’—their introduction and integration into the status quo—is even more critical to success than the design of the tools themselves. The more complex and less tangible the designed tool is, the less feasible it is for the designer to ignore its potential ripple effects.”

For most healthcare employees and consumers, there is no more complex, less tangible experience than a bewildering, impenetrable and continually changing health care system. The tools created to help engender clarity need to be thoughtfully designed, tested and integrated to assure they don’t add to the stress, both for caregivers and patients.2

Here’s an example: a formerly independent hospital merges with a much larger faith-based institution. The wheels are set in motion to design tools to support this merger: internal and external brand communications, updated facilities, wayfinding signage, EMR systems, billing systems, relationships with insurers, ambulatory clinic networks, HR policies and procedures, the list goes on and on.

As a clinical or clerical provider, I need clarity:

  • As an ambassador for this new faith-based brand, ostensibly very different from the old one, how is my behavior expected to change?
  • Will I be able to help design the process to successfully navigate the transition?
  • As new tools are designed and integrated, how will I be prepared to use them?
  • How can I, in my day to day role, bring clarity to our patients and their families?

As a patient or community member, I need clarity:

  • How will this impact me? How will it benefit me?
  • How will expectations of me, as a patient or community member, change?
  • How will the organization help make the transition easier?
  • Will there be physical changes? Will I be able to park and enter in the place I always have?
  • Who will help me? Will the people I’ve come to know and trust still be there?

The gift of clarity establishes the roots needed to visualize, design and deliver a a human centered healthcare experience: to understand the potential points of confusion, then meet individuals at each step in their journey with simple, consistent and well-supported tools. Whether these are designed to support small initiatives or large-scale transitions, anticipating the “ripple effects” of human interactions is critical to achieving sustainable success.

Creating an effective caregiving culture happens by design, not by default. It’s up to us as practitioners to break down silos, see gaps in communications, then test and iterate the tools designed to bring clarity to the questions that our staff, patients and their families bring to this world of healthcare experience.

Truly, there is no greater gift we can give. Happy New Year!

1. Design for Action, Harvard Business Review, September 2015 by Tim Brown and Roger L. Martin
Creating a Culture of Health: Design that Goes Beyond the Mobile Application by Dr. Joyce Lee MD, MPH “Doctor as Designer “ @joyclee

Mark VanderKlipp is an experience and systems designer, working in human-centered graphic design for over 30 years. He helps clients visualize the systems within which they function, empowering staff to deliver an experience that’s clear, relevant and human. He previously spent 24 years with a world-class wayfinding design firm, 13 as its president, where he was the lead strategist for diverse assignments in healthcare, higher education, civic, corporate, trails and tourism throughout North America. Mark is a 1987 graduate of the University of Michigan. In 2012 he earned his evidence-based design certification (EDAC) through the Center for Health Design, and in 2017 became certified in Systems Practice through +Acumen. He is also a founding partner of the customer experience consulting firm Connect_CX.

Tags:  clarity  design  engagement  expectations  interactions  tools 

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When it Comes to Experience Management Many Hospitals are Stuck in 20th Century Thought

Posted By Lou Carbone, Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Updated: Monday, November 11, 2013

Given the dynamic changes taking place in healthcare, it’s not surprising patient experience is a top priority for most hospitals. What is surprising, however, is the outdated mindset hospitals often have about how to improve the experience. Many are investing in quality and process improvement. They’re recognizing they have customers, and they’re integrating patient feedback in making tactical improvements in hospital design.

This mindset is deeply concerning. Hospitals need to realize that experience isn’t the result of a process improvement. They’re under leveraging how they’re using patient input because they’re still focusing on WHAT patients think versus on HOW they think.

Old school thinking focuses on asking for opinions and suggestions as input. Today, success depends on understanding how patients think about their experience, and then designing and managing the experience accordingly. However, many hospitals are suffering because they’re trapped in an outdated way of thinking in an industry that’s changing rapidly.

Hospitals need to be "clued in” to the patient experience. In other words, do you know how the clues you’re delivering are making your patients feel? Better yet, do you even know how your patients want to feel when they’re at your hospital?

Let’s tackle these questions. Know it or not, you’re constantly delivering a barrage of clues to your patients. What they see, smell, hear, taste and touch will create their "experience” and affect them emotionally, even though they aren't even aware it’s happening. That’s because research tells us that 95% of our mental processing takes place unconsciously; only 5% of your patients’ decisions are based on conscious rational thought.

To engage patients, you need to dig deep into this uncharted 95% of experience processing. Which helps us answer the second question. Most hospitals look at the experience from the company-out, focusing on what their brand must project to affect patients’ impressions of its service. I believe, however, the holy grail is thinking and looking at everything from the customer-back, identifying the emotions patients want to feel during their experience and then designing and managing the clues embedded in the experience to elicit these emotions.

I recently worked with Nemours (which has children’s hospitals and clinics in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida) to help improve the ED experience. Knowing that a trip to the ED is inherently stressful, we dug deeper and discovered that above all, ED patients and families want to feel understood, secure and confident. This trio of emotions became the framework around which the patient experience was redesigned.

Nemours learned that having the child seen swiftly by the physician upon arrival in the ED minimizes parents’ anxiety and reassures them their child is in good hands. So, there is now a physician in triage so the patient is seen right away upon arrival, as well as a "pivot nurse” who provides a fast assessment and quickly moves with the patient and family to the place where care will be provided.

To minimize the times patients and families have to tell the story of what brought them to the ED and their health history, they are experimenting with conducting intake interviews via "team huddles” in which the team of doctors and nurses interviews the patient and family together.

When nurses change shifts, the hand-off is now conducted at the patient’s bedside, involving the family in conversations about the patient’s condition, how care will be continued during the shift, upcoming tests and procedures, etc.

Given the variety of doctors, nurses and staff that are involved in a patient’s ED care, all hospital personnel wear color-coded uniforms so the patient and family feel more secure knowing what that person’s role is.

As Nemours learned, understanding the experience from the inside out helps you get into the minds of your patients. Once you understand the unconscious drivers that impact patient behavior, you can transform to intentionally designing and delivering experiences that give you a competitive edge.

Lewis P. (Lou) Carbone is the Founder, President and Chief Experience Officer of Minneapolis-based Experience Engineering, Inc., and the author of Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again (recipient of the celebrated Fast Company Reader’s Choice Award). Widely recognized as the founder of customer experience management, Lou has spent more than two decades leading the world in the development of experience value management theory and practice in a broad range of industries.


Tags:  design  ED  emotion  feedback  patient engagement  patient experience  priority  process 

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