By Amy Fritzer, Director of Business Development
The impact of a strong patient experience program and team is paramount to the success of any healthcare organization.
As humans, we seek positive interaction with and from others. The patient experience is no different.
The patient experience sphere includes all touchpoints a patient has with a healthcare organization – from making an appointment to the waiting room to receiving care to follow-up appointments. Basically, every interaction (and possible interaction) a patient has within the four (even virtual) walls of the facility — even down to the housekeeper who cleans their room to the one who replaces the burned-out light bulb in the lamp next to their hospital bed.
“Every single person is the patient experience,” says Melissa Haynes, Patient Experience Director at Genesis PrimeCare, a large clinic system in East Texas. “We all create that for our patients.”
In other words, as soon as a patient has made contact or walks through the door, whether it be virtually or in person, all eyes should be on the experience of that patient.
How the Pandemic Has Shifted Providers’ Focus to the Patient Experience
There is no doubt that the past year has been an accelerator of change across the healthcare landscape. It magnified existing challenges many healthcare providers and facilities face and forced providers to prioritize others, such as supply chain, financial strains, and perhaps most importantly, the patient experience.
Now more than ever, healthcare leaders understand that the patient experience is holistic, all-encompassing, very personal, and an integral component of the overall quality of care they provide. They also understand the importance of investing in the right people, training tools, and technologies to create and evaluate policies, procedures, and processes to enhance the experience for their customers, the patient.
Especially now with so many healthcare options, patients have a choice of where they go to receive their care. That competition in the healthcare marketplace is another reason many healthcare leaders have a renewed focus on the patient experience and why you may have noticed a rise in patient experience positions in various healthcare organizations.
The Rise of Dedicated Patient Experience Positions
Physicians and providers pride themselves on providing personalized care and an excellent experience. Why? Because it means those patients will become loyal, provide good reviews online and to their family and friends, and contribute to the financial bottom line and stability of the facility and/or practice.
Designating a director of patient experience solely dedicated to the development and maintenance of a culture that is patient-centered and fosters positive experiences for each patient along their journey can not only impact the success of any healthcare facility, practice, or organization, it’s crucial to it.
After all, what good is an experience at a five-star restaurant if you have poor service?
While it may seem obvious, even overwhelming as it involves an endless web of interactions, it all comes down to one word: communication. Even with the ever-changing healthcare landscape, as Fred Lee illustrated in his popular 2004 book, If Disney Ran Your Hospital, what matters most to patients hasn't changed in over 100 years. It’s well documented, and no secret, that above all else, patients want clear, concise communication across the board.
Countless studies have shown that good communication between doctors and patients, as well as all other caregivers who interact with the patient directly, leads to better clinical outcomes, better patient satisfaction, reduced costs, and reduced readmissions.
And what better way to help ensure that’s happening throughout any healthcare organization or facility than having one person and team overseeing the entire process.
The Impact of the Patient Experience Director
In addition to being at the forefront of ongoing research and constant monitoring, measuring, and evaluating the experience of the patient through surveys, interviews, and rounding, the director is actively engaged and collaborates with departments and committees across the organization on strategies, training, and best practices to deliver results and identify areas of improvement.
Perhaps most importantly, the director leads the effort in ensuring everyone in the organization buys into the patient-centered culture and clearly understands how they can have an impact on the patient’s experience. In other words — have a program that supports and brings out the best behavior in your staff.
And it all starts with the basic notion that patients go to a hospital for a reason. They are often vulnerable, stressed, nervous, scared, or traumatized, even for a routine procedure. Empathy and compassion for their current situation are important to keep in mind and should be the center of all communication.
While clinicians focus on delivering the actual care and pain management of the patient, the interactions a patient has outside of their physical care are just as impactful. A simple smile and a “good morning” can make a patient feel welcome and lessen their anxiety for an upcoming procedure, for example.
Incorporating hospitality training for all staff — from those on the frontlines to the support services team members — can go a long way and have a tremendous impact on the patient’s overall experience and comfort.
Not to mention it garners loyalty from physicians, nurses, clinicians, and hourly team members, and yes, even patients. A happy patient is a loyal patient.
Some ways to create a positive patient experience:
• Good communication with providers and all staff
• Clear, concise information
• Easy access to information, including scheduling
• Timely appointments and cutting downtime in the waiting room
• Responsiveness of hospital staff
• Good communication about medicines, discharge, expectations
• Create a clean, comfortable, and safe environment