Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

Thoughts and ideas on healthcare

Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

Mapping the Emotional Patient Experience

August 21, 2015

dreamstime_m_46536680The Harvard Business Review’s article on design thinking informing organizational culture offers an interesting way to rethink the patient experience.

The process of identifying the rationale or purpose for designing a new product requires an understanding of the target users and where the product fits into their lives.

In the case of the hospital, the patient uses every service on an as-needed basis. And, the circumstances under which an individual becomes a patient is one of duress. This is where we begin.

Today, the patient experience has been defined by what the hospital “does.” But, a patient’s intimate experience with the hospital is not just based on actions. Rather, there is an emotional journey that can be mapped from event to event.

This emotional trajectory over the full time of engagement in the hospital informs and becomes the patient experience.

So, what would happen if we mapped the patient experience based on emotional response?

  1. The patient experience begins with symptoms and a call to the doctor or a trip to the emergency room. Emotions: Fear, anticipation.
  2. Once in the hospital, the patient is then first put through the insurance/identification/fill-out-forms process. Emotions: More fear and frustration; sometimes embarrassment, shame.
  3. Diagnostics tests. Emotions: frustration, fear.
  4. Waiting for results. Emotions: (more of the above).

The roller coaster ride of patienthood allows for no respite. In fact, it is indeed a one-act play — all the same cast and the plot is about suffering.

That said, taking just #1, what could be done to mitigate the fear and ease the anticipation?

What could be done to make waiting for tests easier? How could patients so trust their providers that once their health is in the hands of their physicians or nurses, they can let up on themselves?

This is where all surveys and policies fall away and the real human experience takes root. It is not resolved or made real anywhere other than the bedside, inside the relationships of those involved.

The environment in which patients find themselves further informs their fears and anxieties. Whether waiting for a treatment, to be admitted, or recovering in a patient room, everything about the environment matters — including what’s playing on the television.

The C.A.R.E. Channel is produced in order to fill the gaps when patients are waiting and frightened. Its nature video and soothing instrumental music comforts and supports patients during the long hours when no one is around to help. The news of the day on CNN or Fox is not what someone who is frustrated or fearful needs or wants to see.

Walking through the emotional journey of a patient or family member reveals the holes in all of our efforts.

Be a patient for a day. What would help you?

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