The Age of the Patient Experience: When Do We Get Good At This?
April 22, 2016
Coming from the 2016 Beryl Institute Patient Experience Conference last week, like the 1000+ attendees, I’m both inspired and driven to move this whole discussion deeper.
Not unlike how Descartes split the human experience into mind and body. So, too, is the patient experience divided into the diagnosis and everything that happens around it.
It has its own tasks, often its own director, its own language, and its own place on meeting agendas. It is like, “here” is healthcare and over “there” is the patient experience. Really?
What we know is that the patient experience is medication. It’s endoscopy and chemotherapy. It is the meals, the bedding, the lighting, the noise, the words spoken and unspoken. And clearly what ultimately controls the patient experience is money, the budget, and the priorities obvious and hidden.
Patient Experience More Than Just Surveys
If you never lose sight of the patient, you might realize that the compartmentalism that currently struggles to define the phenomenon of the patient experience is flawed. Trying to reduce the patient experience to a 31-multiple choice question survey or a set of limited factors and issues just doesn’t work. More than that, the effort misses the point and the patient.
You might realize that what happens to a patient under your care is all there is. That everything that has been constructed around this core and sole domain of concern must serve, not compete, with human outcomes.
Safety and quality are not different than the patient experience. If the hospital room is not clean, the patient is not clean. If the design and layout of the room does not provide for social support, the patient is isolated. If the environment of the room does not make compassion and empathy evident, then they do not exist.
Every single person, at some point, will be a patient who needs healthcare services. Including those who work in the administration of hospitals, whether managing billing or insurance claims, setting up appointments or scheduling volunteers.
That means that the person who must deny an insurance claim may be the next person who is denied care. The person who increases the nurse/patient ratio may be the patient waiting for care.
Time for Change
We’re at a crossroads where we must begin to embed the values of human caring in the very system that promises of the best care but is inconsistent on delivery. The patient experience conversation is both universal and global, and is being demanded by the kind of social changes we see around us.
Montel Williams, who spoke at the Beryl conference this year, told his story, practically from birth, of the healthcare system that both scarred him and saved him. He told of the insensitivities of staff members. Ones who dismissed his daughter’s request for anesthesia during an invasive diagnostic procedure until Montel demanded new nurses — ones who would engage rather than ignore or discount the deep fears she had.
He told his own diagnosis of multiple sclerosis being communicated as a “by the way…” by a physician who clearly did not know or care about him. Montel shared his own frustration of having symptoms of MS, but because “black men do not have MS,” it took years for the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Every Person Has a Story
There are so many stories. All of them live in the very experience of telling them and then retelling them. Montel said, most profoundly, that the most painful story is the story untold.
I add to that, “the story unheard.”
This is truly the age of the patient experience. At this time is our collective history, with all of the medical breakthroughs and life-extensions, with more chronic illnesses than ever before and a continual challenge of new diseases, healthcare providers are compelled to merge their concern for the patient experience with everything that they do.
This means making their promises, missions, compassion, and empathy readily evident to patients and families who are facing life-threatening challenges.
So, the next time you make any decision, ask yourself: What will this mean to the patient, at the bedside, in the hospital at large? How does this translate into the patient experience?
Please join with all of us at Healing HealthCare Systems to celebrate Patient Experience Week next week! For more information, visit the Beryl Institute website.
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