“My father isn’t a defective atrial valve, he’s a father of six and husband to my mother who happens to have a faulty heart.” This statement from the opening anecdote of Tuesday’s keynote by Dr. Bridget Duffy, CEO of ExperiaHealth, at the National Healthcare Strategy Summit clearly sets up the challenges that prevent having a positive experience in healthcare.
Patients aren’t their diseases. Patients aren’t simply an input and output from a process. They are people, with lives and families and dreams and they want to be cared for.
Great care is important, but actually caring about who is being cared for is equally so. It is necessary to address not only the need for great efficiency in our healthcare system but also compassion. Don’t just attend to the disease, but also the fears that come along with the disease. Don’t just focus on patient flow, focus on crafting an exceptional patient experience.
Dr. Duffy breaks the patient experience in three major areas:
Clinical – Clinical doesn’t just include the delivery of care, but also encompasses access to care, navigation through the care system, and the discharge process. This includes the post-discharge connection between patients and the care team which can be a very effective way to prevent readmission.
Physical – While this certainly includes creating a healing environment at the care facility, it also includes patients’ interactions with people. Simple things like improving hospital food and providing culturally-appropriate dietary options makes the hospital a much less scary place. One facility provides housekeeping staff with business cards and encourages them to see what they do as part of each patient’s healing process.
Emotional – Dealing with health issues is draining for patients, families and caregivers. Creating human connections and investing in spiritual renewal can do wonders to boost recovery and reinvigorate caregivers in their work. A number of organizations have now implemented a “Code Lavender™” program which calls on people within the organization to send good feelings and intentional prayer to specific patients in crisis. They actually send this out on pagers and text messages across the organization! Often, this is supplemented with team that help support the emotional well-being of patients and families, as well as caregivers. Disheartened providers can’t provide great care.
Fortunately, Dr. Duffy also had some incredible stories of physicians and organizations that are doing it right. One orthopedic surgeon has made a habit of stopping everything before the patient is put under to introduce each person in the OR to the patient. Each person explains their role in the procedure to come, and then tells the patient that they’re going to get them through the procedure. Dr. Duffy refers to these habits as the “Always Events,” in contrast to the “Never Events” that our organizations work so hard to never allow to happen.
And this works. That same orthopedic surgeon not only has the best patient satisfaction scores in his facility, he also has the lowest staff turnover, the longest waitlist and the best financial performance. Win, win, and win.