Improving the Patient Experience

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , September 13, 2011
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On a board behind the patient, White displayed a list of all the employees—the mechanics, the dispatchers, others—who made that airlift happen safely.

Each time the trauma patient described another aspect about his care, even how much he enjoyed a Popsicle, the backdrop displayed the names of all the people who made that part of his hospitalization possible.

In fact, being nice is part of the formula, but it’s a byproduct of culture change, not the focus of it, White says.

To illustrate this, she talks about an employee named Michael, an attendant in the hospital’s parking lot booth.

“We’d received five or six letters from people complaining how rude he was. So I went out there and asked if he was aware of this. He said, ‘Yeah, what do you want me to do about it? I spend 10 seconds with these people.’

“I said, ‘How about something other than making them angry?’ Then I got in the booth with him and realized he had the most miserable job ... as he said it, ‘keeping the kids out and getting the patients in as fast as I can.’”

White told him he had two choices. “Either you’re going to increase
anxiety or you’re going to put them at ease. Why don’t you start asking people if they have any questions?”
 she suggested.

“Just then, a car pulled up with a patient who’d driven several hours for a surgical appointment and was extremely late and stressed about it. I asked Michael to call the nurses to let them know the patient had arrived, but he said he wasn’t allowed to do that. So I climbed in the booth and said, ‘No worries. I’ll call.’” She reassured the patient, whose stress level was immediately reduced.

“They said, ‘Oh, thank you. We were worried; we couldn’t get ahold of him.’ And from that day forward Michael knew what his job was.” Since then, when cars stop at his booth, Michael makes sure they know where they need to be, even if they don’t ask, and he’s become a model employee.

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