A patient's experience with his or her local healthcare provider is critical to achieving true health reform. The patient experience is not an isolated event. Rather, it is the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. There is no silver bullet or checklist to follow. Instead, the patient experience is comprised of every impression and encounter a patient (or family member) has with your health system. Whether it's making a phone call for additional information, scheduling an appointment, or whether your website is easy to navigate, every interaction impacts patient perception.
Like it or not, the patient experience is the holy grail for healthcare providers. That said, hospitals need to focus on their culture, not on their grade. If the focus is on the score, we've missed the point. We need to keep the focus on the patient.
Think about it. When you have a relationship with someone and believe they care about you, you are more likely to trust them, follow their advice and communicate with them honestly. When you have an isolated encounter with someone, you're less likely to take the risk.
The same thing is true for healthcare. Building relationships with patients is the single most important thing hospitals can do to make a lasting change in the delivery of care. When the focus is on building a relationship with every patient, every time, there is better communication, better compliance, better coordination of care, and better outcomes. And yes, an enhanced bottom line as well.
Steve Whitehurst is senior vice president of the patient experience at The Beryl Companies.