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Appreciation: A catalyst for patient experience success

November 20th, 2014

by Jason A. Wolf

We can never be quite sure when those "ah-ha" moments come in life, but I think we can agree they're powerful.

I had one just this week during a visit to the physician's office where a scheduled appointment was significantly delayed. While these are frustrating, albeit often expected situations these days, the nurse proactively offered a sincere and direct, "Thank you for your patience," and explained they were backed up that morning and were very sorry for the delay.

What jumped out at me in this exchange was not so much the explanation, but rather the appreciation, in this case via a simple, personal and direct thank you. Now this may not be the typical means by which you consider appreciation is expressed, but what I found in the exchange was a recognition of my situation, an acknowledgement of the issue and an active means to address it to the extent she could -- all grounded in the simple construct of a thank you.


This is timely as we are entering the Thanksgiving season here in the U.S., a holiday that now may seem more about eating or when holiday shopping begins, but it is grounded in this same idea, one of appreciation. As I noted in my recent blog, appreciation and acknowledgement are central in ensuring we care for those providing care, and in doing so, create the ability to provide the best in experience. It was even more explicit in my recent visit to learn more about Virginia Mason's experience efforts, in which each person -- patient or staff -- is acknowledged for their voice and value they bring.

It seemed the idea of appreciation showed up up in every direction I looked. When I saw appreciation, it was more than just the simple yet powerful words -- thank you. It was the wrapping in which they were presented. At times it was not even those specific words, but actions that reinforced the power of appreciation.

I decided to dig a little deeper into the idea that appreciation itself is a powerful tool in engaging with others, especially noting experience excellence is primarily grounded in the interaction between two people. In looking at the definition of appreciation, I discovered three variations on a theme that frame some important considerations as organizations continue their patient experience improvement journeys.

  1. First, appreciation means being grateful. This was exemplified by my encounter at the physician's office. There was a genuine sense of thankfulness in my encounter. How do you express this thankfulness in your own organizational environments for both your people and those in your care?
  2. Second, appreciation means understanding the worth or importance of something. This is the power of acknowledgement and where dignity and respect are best exemplified. When we can show we understand the importance of someone’s situation, especially for those we are working to heal or to ease suffering, we do important work.
  3. Lastly, appreciation means having an increase in value. Wouldn't it be incredible to help those in our organizations and those we care for feel an increasing sense of value in their encounters with us? While it may not be monetary, there is great significance in growing confidence, restoring purpose or providing hope. That may be the most important opportunity for appreciation we have.

For a simple word, it was a profound discovery. If we can build appreciation into our experience efforts -- be grateful, understand importance and increase value -- we have in one word driven some of the most critical interpersonal interactions we can to ensure the best in experience for all we engage. The opportunity to apply one concept in three significant ways is a powerful tool and personal resource in driving experience excellence. In many ways appreciation, in its simplicity, may be one of the most powerful catalysts for patient experience success.

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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