Four Ways to Make Patient Experience Stick

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , December 9, 2009

It's often said but eminently true: The fastest way to scuttle a program is to give your employees the impression that it's a fad that will inevitably fade from favor with the next change in the weather—or the C-suite. And even though patient experience is a top priority at many organizations right now, that "right now" qualifier could signal trouble. I recently sat down with a panel of experts who shared their best tactics not only for making patient experience a priority—but making sure it sticks.

Here are four highlights from the discussion:

Make your mission part of everything you do, says John Gnida consultant, client education at Professional Research Consultants, Inc., in Omaha, NE. "It's amazing how often you'll walk into a room and even though they say, ‘We're all about patient-centeredness,' patient care is nowhere on the agenda. When the very first thing on the agenda is about care, it sends a message to everybody. People will start to buy the mission when our currency, our attention, and our time show our devotion to it."

It's all about leadership and it starts with them, says Rick Henvey, Regional COO for Community Hospitals at the Parkview Health System in Fort Wayne, IN. "Are they transparent with the data? Are they as passionate about this as they are everything else that they do? Are they living it? Are they genuine about what they're doing with that? The CEO has to lead it in a genuine way along with board members."

You need one person whose only agenda is experience, says Sean Keyser, VP of operational improvement & service excellence at Novant Health in Charlotte, NC. "We can say that everybody owns it. But you need somebody who gets up every day and asks themselves, 'What did we do today that was a part of the operational implementation of this experience?' Someone's got to be thinking about the steps and the plans and the timelines and the human beings and the materials and the resources."

Get your priorities in order, says Janet Nystrom, HR director at Progress West Healthcare Center in O'Fallon, MO. "We have four service priorities, in order of importance: safety, courtesy, expertise, efficiency. Everything that we do is structured around those four priorities. Because they're in order of importance, you can make decisions and know that you're doing the right thing for the organization and, more importantly, for the patient. Efficiency, where finance lies, is our fourth priority. Courtesy and compassion, where service excellence falls, is ranked second under safety."

The full roundtable discussion, Making Patient Experience Initiatives Stick, is available online. Other topics covered include the business case for patient experience, leaders' roles in patient experience, and engaging physicians in patient experience, especially those who might be reluctant to embrace it.

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