This year marked the 7th conference held by the Beryl Institute, and it was easy to see how far the idea and support of ‘patient experience’ has come. There were many valuable insights and ideas shared from across the globe, stretching from the states, to the UK, all the way to Australia. While the stories were different, they all revolved around the idea of creating a great patient experience, but more importantly a human experience. Here are a few takeaways that really stuck with me from this year’s sessions and conversations:

1. The importance of taking care of your employees (engagement) will ultimately shift the experience your patients will receive

For the first time in conference history there was a noticeable shift in discussion; it was no longer about chasing numbers and moving individual HCAHPS, but rather revolved around how to ensure we are engaging our staff. Health care leaders have changed their perception on how to improve the overall patient experience by first starting from within. If we take care of our own house first, then the rest will take care of itself, including the patient experience. If you don’t have an engaged staff – doctors, nurses, housekeepers – it is going to be really hard for them to put the patient and family first in every interaction. We want our employees to bring their “best self” to work every day and if their engagement is not at their best then how in the world is it possible for us to deliver a world-class experience?

2. Migrating from Physician-Centered Practices to Patient-Centered Practices

Jason Wolf, President of the Beryl Institute, and keynote speaker Gary Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason, addressed the importance of being a patient-centered practice. In many organizations the physicians land at the top of the pyramid, and it tends to be their thoughts and feelings that are taken into account when making organizational decisions. After some re-evaluation, Virginia Mason shifted their thought process to have the patient at the center of the circle. This shift led to a reduction in waste through better communication and visibility, better patient experience scores and higher productivity. Virginia Mason was able to demonstrate that by striving to achieve excellence through the patient experience, hospitals are able to impact the entire span of the organization.

In a later session, Richard Corder, Partner at Wellesley Partners, spoke to the idea of a patient-centered culture. It comes down to personal accountability and the willingness to treat each patient like a guest in a 5-star hotel. Patients want an experience filled with kindness, empathy, and respect. Not all care givers are hardwired as such, but it is essential to find the ones who are. As Richard says, “if it is to be it is up to me.” Each individual has the power to give exceptional care, but if it isn’t in the hospital’s culture, it’s hard to go against the norm. It comes down to shifting the views of the entire organization and putting the patient first. Many of the following sessions related back to this idea but broke it down into more specific attributes.

3. Communication is Key

Communication tends to be the root of most problems, as well as the key to most success. This topic was voiced loud and clear from both patient experience leaders as well as from the patient side, honing in on two unique parts.

The health care take was primarily demonstrated with rounding. The goal of rounding is to help eliminate error, save time, increase visibility and improve service recovery. The idea of rounding also gave an opportunity for fellow care givers to recognize one another for their work. It is a great way to engage staff while also engaging patients. They found that by simply taking the time to talk to patients and families in the morning led to less questions throughout the day and actually empowered the patient to take ownership in their care journey. Dr. Shalini spoke to the service recovery portion. Many times it is hard for an individual to admit they made an error, but by following her three steps – apologize, address, absolve – it could turn into a great relationship; sometimes better than if there had been no problem at all!

From the patient perspective, it was vitally important to them that information be shared with the patient and family members, good or bad. For them, times without communication can leave them to feel cold, alone, abandoned and scared. Not only was communication between provider and patient important, the communication between hospital staff members and patients is equally important. Patients mentioned that seeing hospital staff walk past each other without saying hello made them feel uncomfortable receiving care from them. One former patient said, “if you can’t be kind to each other, the people you work with every day, why would you be kind to me, a stranger?” One simple step to try would be calling people by their first name or remembering to say thank you.

4. Tune into the Patient Voice

Many times during a patient’s care journey they are asked “how are you feeling?” To them, this is a chance to voice what they think is wrong with them or what they are needing. Sometimes it could be a simple reassuring voice saying “it’ll be alright,” while at other times, it is an extra dose of pain medication or a place for their loved one to sit. Being aware of what the patient might be needing in their care is essential to providing an excellent experience. Going beyond what a patient needs is realizing what the family needs. It is vital that staff address the family and loved one’s on how it is going to affect their life, what is expected of them and giving them realistic expectations along with an opportunity to ask questions.

5. FEAR and its impact on Imagination and Creativity in the Health Care Industry

Street artist and speaker, Erik Wahl, enlightened and entertained us with his topic of how the fear of failure has impacted our ability to try new things. His idea of FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real – has changed how we are able to come up with new processes and procedures. So much of our life is spent in the analytical, problem-solving spectrum that we forget and even become afraid to try new things. Whether that is due to the possibility of failure or lack of support it has caused us to get stuck in our ways of doing things. Wahl encouraged attendees to take a step back, slow down and to open the mind to new ideas. In the over-regulated world of health care it is necessary to explore new concepts to keep up with the rising demands and expectations of the patient experience.

Thanks for reading! Would love to hear what stood out to you. Many thanks to my colleague Jessica Resier for helping me co-write this blog.

Todd Spohn
Director of Business Development
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