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The 3 Ps of patient experience

August 21st, 2014

by Jason A. Wolf

I shared in previous posts that we must consider patient experience from the eyes of our consumers--the patients and families we serve. This reinforces the point that experience is not just about satisfaction or smiles, but rather a critical integration of our efforts focused on quality, safety and service.

I also made the point that experience is not bound by the walls of our clinics, hospitals or residences, but rather transcends the boundaries of buildings to the continuum people experience. It encompasses not only the clinical touch-points, but all the points before, after and in between--from schedule and access, to transitions of care, to billing or post-visit follow-ups. This all encompassing view may seem overwhelming, but I'd rather suggest it gives us a broad playing field in which to focus our efforts, understand the needs of those we work with and serve, and then provide the best in solutions to fit our environment, our focus and our purpose.

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It's on this framing--the integration of quality, safety and service at all touch points on the continuum of care--that I return to a fundamental thought about what influences patient experience excellence. That is the people through whom we deliver experience, the processes by which we deliver experience and the places (physical or virtual) in which we deliver experience.

People. At the heart of all we do in healthcare is a simple fact: We are human beings caring for human beings. It is the interactions we have with one another in care delivery that have a significant impact. We must ensure we have the right individuals in place in every role, reinforce the need for visionary leadership at all levels, and focus on building a vibrant, positive and strong culture committed to certain expected behaviors, grounded in powerful stories and focused on clear outcomes. People as a concept is more than just the individuals we are, it represents all we stand for in providing the best in experience.

Process. While people are our mechanism for most of what we do, it is our processes that enable our ability to do so effectively. In today's dynamic healthcare environment, we must create and sustain agile organizations that have clear, practical and effective processes for workflow, engagement and action. This is beyond clinical process checklists, to understanding all that influence the experiences of those encountering our organizations. How do we engage people when they first enter our organizations, either virtually or physically? How do we manage handoffs? How do we convey and communicate information? And how do we do all this in a timely and efficient manner? Effective processes can achieve both dollar and time savings, but more so, they provide a better experience.

Place. Where we conduct our work in healthcare has significant impact and provides some of the biggest challenges. Place is still seen primarily as the physical environment, but it also encompasses a growing virtual space in which we engage patients and families via apps, portals or telehealth mechanisms. The power of place is substantial and one we often take for granted. This encompasses the simple factors such as noise (good and bad) and cleanliness. It reaches to the experiential and aesthetic elements and design factors that expand and reinforce the experience we strive to provide. We must acknowledge that design and environment have significant impact on mood, comfort, healing and engagement and ultimately experience overall. Yet, the reality is that creating the perfect physical space without first focusing on the fundamentals of people and process has little value.

Sitting at the core of these three Ps I actually offer one more for your consideration: Purpose.

In all my travels and connections as we expand the patient experience conversation globally, I see one consistent action in those organizations achieving success. They are clear on who they are, what they want achieve and where they are going. This is the idea of definition I often speak to and look to reinforce. In creating patient experience excellence, you must have a foundation of purpose on which to determine the best people, design the best processes and build the best place. If you work to align these factors and recognize that this is work that is never truly done, you will create a model and an opportunity for patient experience success. It is an incredible and worthwhile journey.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., is president of The Beryl Institute, a global community of practice focused on patient experience improvement and founding editor of Patient Experience Journal. Follow Jason @jasonawolf , The Beryl Institute @berylinstitute and Patient Experience Journal @pxjournal on Twitter.

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