Satisfied patients are good for business, as Carole A. Lambert, assistant vice president, membership review and education, at the Southern California Association for Healthcare Risk Management, explains.
The Beryl Institute, a global community of practice, and premier thought leader on improving the patient experience in healthcare, 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.”
Sue Ter Maat, in her amednews.com post of March 4, 2013, noted that experts in the area have said: “The patient experience—focusing on care coordination, communication with caregivers and staff responsiveness—is about protocols designed to reduce patient stress.”
The business case for creating the extraordinary patient experience is built on what Patrick A. Charmel and Susan B. Frampton in their 2008 book Putting Patients First, describe as product differentiation in the age of healthcare consumerism. As out-of-pocket healthcare expenses increase, consumers seek comparable increases in value, which most people equate with service. As patients and families become more knowledgeable and more discriminating, their expectations of physicians, staff, and systems will rise. But, how to create real and perceived value, and, as good as you and your organization may already be, how to make your organization the place of choice?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” the old saying goes. However, the thoughtful reconsideration of existing systems, critical thinking rather than criticism, should be an ongoing activity, and is the first step in committing to culture change. The work has meaning beyond the task. How the pieces of the work fit together, and the systems, evolve as the environment of the work changes. What are some of the key individual and organizational elements that can contribute to becoming the provider and place of choice?
How to succeed
Invest in personal professional development: commit to life-long learning, not just the required continuing education courses. Take a look at the big ideas—enterprise risk management, the high reliability organization—that will stretch your thinking and inform that thoughtful reconsideration mentioned above. Risk management and patient safety professionals are members of enterprises which daily accept, manage, and reject risk. Patients and their families are counting on all the staff to create and maintain a highly reliable organization.
Invest in staff training—and it is an investment: time spent away from revenue-generating activities represents real opportunity costs—but staff engagement is an essential element in culture change. Shared understanding of, and commitment to, the goal of making patients’ and families’experience extraordinary, will generate enthusiasm for and ownership of the changes. An engaged staff is creative, making suggestions for modifications and improvements based on their first-hand experience of the work.
Risk management and patient safety leadership is vital to developing and maintaining the thoughtful ongoing review of existing systems and, in addition, establishing shared goals across disciplines and departments. As patients and families transition among healthcare providers and organizations, at every step there is the opportunity to influence their experience, to reduce stress and anxiety, and to reinforce the wisdom and desirability of returning to you and your team over and over again.
Does this approach take time and effort? It sure does. Becoming the provider and place of choice represents major and ongoing investment. It consumes valuable resources—human and financial. Is it worth it in the short and long run? What value can be placed on aligning patients, families, and our enterprises in having the extraordinarily rewarding experience of building a healthier community?
This is the challenge and the opportunity: to stand out in an age of healthcare consumerism.
This article was originally published in CAPsules.
Carole A Lambert, Southern California Association for Healthcare Risk Management, US