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Hospital employees: You are the patient experience

May 9th, 2012

by Jason A. Wolf

Yes, I mean you! In fact, I believe that to ensure the greatest quality, service and care, each and every one of us must "be" the patient experience.

As you look to improve patient encounters in your healthcare setting--be it a physician practice, outpatient center, critical access or acute care setting--there is a declared sense of accountability that comes with the endeavor. This is not a new idea, though some may say there is greater motivation due to policy and now financial implications based on performance (for example, through value-based purchasing in the United States).

With this, I believe the issue has now taken on even greater significance as the conversation on overall experience has moved to center stage. So if you are to say, "I am the patient experience," what does that really mean and what ultimately matters?

[More:]

  1. Every role matters: The patient experience cannot be achieved alone. It is the responsibility of those providing direct care--be they nurses, physicians or technicians--as well as all who support any part of the care experience, from the individual who schedules an appointment, to the valet or volunteer, to food services and the housekeeping team, to the individual calling about a bill. Not that you can simply turn over responsibility to everyone and hope something happens. In making every role matter, I strongly reinforce the need for a patient experience leader to shape and guide your strategy and ensure success.
  2. Every interaction matters: The Beryl Institute defines the patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. Every touch point in healthcare is part of only one experience for the patient and their family. We cannot isolate efforts, but must work to see how they all fit together in providing the best experience possible. In a previous blog post I emphasized that patient experience is not a passing fad; now I suggest it is an emerging field. If you believe in the statement "I am the patient experience" you also know this is no longer about a survey. Rather, it is about a shared commitment to excellence.
  3. Every perception matters: Every action we take or process we implement is only as valuable as the perception it leaves with patients and families. At the end of the day, the patient experience is not "ours" as providers, but "theirs." We must remember that all actions ultimately are for patients, so what are we doing to know them and understand their needs? One idea is to truly understand who patients are by capturing their life story, as exemplified in the Living History Program. It ensures we remember that patients all have stories to tell and their perspectives and perceptions are central to the overall experience.
  4. You matter: I encourage you to proudly declare, "I am the patient experience!" With all respect to policy, process and protocol, the ultimate resource in an unparalleled patient experience is you--your behaviors, your actions and the choices you make in whatever role you play. The choice is yours and the opportunity is great. At The Beryl Institute, we see the power of the patient experience in everyone and shared this in a recent video. I hope you recognize your power to make a difference as well.

There is no question there is power in recognizing "I am the patient experience." If everyone in healthcare considered this and acted, imagine the impact we could have on the experiences of every patient, their families and each other.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., is executive director of The Beryl Institute, the premier thoughtleader on improving the patient experience. He is a recognized expert on organizational effectiveness, service excellence and high performance in healthcare. Follow Jason @jasonawolf and The Beryl Institute @berylinstitute on Twitter.

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