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The Beryl Institute invites members to submit posts on patient experience related topics. For guidelines and information on submitting a post for consideration, please contact us at info@theberylinstitute.org.

 

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Top tags: patient experience  healthcare  communication  culture  patient  HCAHPS  Leadership  patient engagement  empathy  physician  survey  compassion  perception  physicians  technology  caregiver  community  data  employee engagement  family engagement  healing  Hospital  improving patient experience  collaboration  Consumerism  Expectations  interactions  patient and family engagement  pediatric  person-centered care 

Service Recovery in Healthcare

Posted By Rhonda Ramos, Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Service recovery is no foreign concept to the business world. It is a fundamental practice that can turn a negative situation into a positive statement about a company. Simply put, it is the process of making things right after something has gone wrong with the consumer’s experience. You see this common occurrence in retail, restaurants, and even airlines. Yet how can we adopt service recovery in healthcare?

Let’s face it, we’re not perfect. We fail to meet our patients’ expectations in numerous ways: excessive wait times, appointment scheduling problems, room/environment issues, miscommunication, and the list goes on. In the food service world, if I go out to dinner and a steak is not prepared the way I ordered it, the restaurant would probably remove the entrée from my bill. In healthcare, can we give a free prescription because a patient had to wait, or provide a coupon for a lab draw if the patient requires multiple needle sticks? Probably not.

In order to curb bad public relations since dissatisfied customers tend to tell others about their negative experiences, we’ve had to get a bit creative in healthcare. We know that the basis of all our interactions is communication; therefore, our service recovery program is grounded in the way we communicate during a complaint. We developed the acronym GIFT:

  • Gather – Listen to the individual’s concern and validate their feelings
  • I’m sorry – Offer a genuine apology for not meeting their expectations
  • Feedback – Explain what you plan to do and follow up
  • Thank – Thank them for sharing their concerns

These four simple steps provide a mental pathway as you’re attempting to diffuse a complaint. At UPMC Pinnacle Hanover, we carefully incorporated the Heart-Head-Heart communication method, which we adopted from the Language of Caring philosophy. By offering a blameless apology, we express ownership yet not necessarily assume fault. We involved our Patient/Family Advisory Council in the creation of this program, and they advised us that a genuine apology is the most critical element. The goal is to allow the complainant to feel heard, validated, and respected.

While most concerns can be resolved simply with proper communication, there are instances when it might be beneficial to offer something “extra” such as a gift card or other small token. CMS guidelines state that a service recovery item presented to a patient cannot exceed $10 per person or $50 in an aggregate year. (This is also under Department of Health and Human Services - OIG Advisory Opinion No. 08-07.) If a department chooses to obtain a supply of gift cards to various local vendors (restaurants, gas stations, etc.), they track them using our internal reporting system. Reports can be run, by patient, on a monthly basis to ensure that we are compliant.

One of the most important elements of this entire program is empowerment. Rather than only allowing a department head to resolve concerns, which could happen after a patient has already left the facility, we wanted to educate and empower each employee to utilize service recovery. By immediately responding to concerns and complaints we can create loyalty with our “customers.” We can create a learning culture that treats complaints as gifts, or opportunities for improvement, that steers away from a negative connotation to something more positive and patient-centered.

When an issue is identified and addressed before the patient is discharged, theoretically it will also help to reduce the number of formal grievances we receive. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantitatively prove that our service recovery program has confidently reduced our number of formal grievances. However, we do know that there has been a shift in our culture and employees feel empowered to take ownership to provide quick and decisive action when something has gone wrong. And at the end of the day, that’s a win.

Rhonda Ramos is the Patient Experience Manager for UPMC Pinnacle Hanover and has worked for the organization for ten years. She is fluent in Spanish and started her career in healthcare as an interpreter and patient advocate. Rhonda grew up in Ellicott City, MD and currently resides in Hanover, PA with her husband and two children, ages 3 years and 6 months.

Tags:  communication  complaint  empowerment  grievance  patient advocacy  service recovery 

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Sacred Ground

Posted By Dr. Bryan K. Williams, Friday, January 22, 2016
Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2016

There are certain places in this world that I truly consider to be sacred. One of those places is a healthcare facility. Whether it is called a hospital, doctor’s office, nursing home, or hospice is irrelevant. In that moment, when someone needs to be cared for and healed, it is a sacred one. One that healthcare providers should never take for granted.

As a patient, I am annoyed that I don’t feel well, and I’m even more annoyed that I have to go visit a healthcare provider. My schedule has been disrupted. I have anxiety about the diagnosis. I might even have more anxiety about how much the medication will cost. The one thing I don’t need, however, is to feel like I am a bother to those I am seeking help from. The healing truly begins way before patients actually meet the provider. It begins with the warm smile from the person at the registration/admissions desk. Or perhaps it begins with whoever answers the phone when the patient calls seeking answers.

Recently, I was facilitating a training session at a healthcare organization. The attendees were comprised of senior and mid-level leaders. Towards the end of the session, one leader asked me, "Under what circumstances should the leader not tolerate negativity from the staff?” At first, I thought the leader meant it as a rhetorical question, but then I realized that she was completely serious. In fact, as I looked around the room, EVERY leader was leaning forward and eagerly awaiting a response. I realized that it was a much more common issue than I previously thought.

After thinking for a moment, I told her that no negativity should be tolerated. Ever. In fact, the healthcare environment is sacred ground, and it should be considered sacred in every way. Especially by those who work there. On the way home, that leader’s question lingered in my mind. Early the next morning, I wrote the following:

Sacred Ground

This is where healing takes place.
This is where caring takes place.
This is where the ultimate expression of hospitality takes place.
Everything I say and do should declare that "I see you...I honor you...and you have unconditional worthiness".
Let there be no gossip.
Let there be no negativity.
Let us only lift each other up, as we lift up those we take care of.
Let us be grateful that there are people who entrust us with their health.
People who need us and depend on us.
May we never take that for granted or grow complacent.
This ground is not sacred because of my degrees, or certifications, or expertise.
It is sacred because "caring" happens here. Healing happens here. Love happens here.
From this day forward, I will consistently put the "care" in healthcare, as I care for my patients, care for my colleagues, and care for myself.
As long as I have breath, I will do everything I can to keep this ground sacred.
-Bryan K. Williams

 


Dr. Bryan K. Williams is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author who champions service excellence and organizational effectiveness. His clients include Baldrige-winning hospitals, award-winning school systems, and Forbes 5-Star Luxury Hotels worldwide. Bryan’s passion is to serve others so they may better serve the world.

Tags:  culture  Leadership  patient advocacy  patient engagement 

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