Patient Experience: The New Chocolate Chip Cookie of Healthcare
April 10, 2015
If I told you that I had invented the chocolate chip cookie, what would you think? That I had lost it, or was delusional? Because chocolate chip cookies predate written history, right? How can you invent something that already exists?
Well, the patient experience movement is the “new” chocolate chip cookie of healthcare.
In truth, before medical breakthroughs, antibiotics, and miraculous technological cures, there was the patient experience. There were the poultices, prayers, warm tea, cold compresses, and cozy beds. There was alchemy, potions, and herbs.
That was all there was. And, the major symptom to consider was how the patient felt. The patient experience as reported by the patient.
Once medicine grew up a little, the patient experience was forsaken for all things curative. The great divide between the mind and body allowed us to dismiss all things subjective. Things like the patient perception, anxiety, fear, stress, and attitude.
None of that was considered relevant to the health outcome.
So, now we again re-invent the chocolate chip cookie, the “how you feel and what you think matters” concept of the patient experience. And, we must reclaim, if not relearn, our love for chocolate — our love for all things truly human, for caring, comfort, and making the patient important in our own experience.
What is the difference between acting kindly and being kind? Between inquiring about a patient’s status and being genuinely concerned? Between acting compassionately and being compassionate?
Well, it is like the difference between real chocolate and chocolate-flavored. A serious and measurable difference.
Patients live their illness. They live their own perception of being cared for. They generate their own stories about what is happening. The intimate relationship between patients’ perceptions and the strength of their coping skills in dealing with pain is well documented.
And, they live their patient experience one moment to the next. There is no resigning from being a patient until you’re not a patient, if ever.
From my own experience of being seriously ill and trapped on one side by the condition and on the other by the hospital culture, I know there is little room for comfort. However, that “little room” is where authentic caring and concern overrides everything else. It’s where hope and healing are born and thrive.
Being authentic is at the core of what each of us wants when we have to “entrust our health to another.” We want chocolate through and through. Not chocolate-flavored. We want the real thing.
Caring for the life and health of another requires that we are fully present to the person, not only the disease. That we are fully present in our caring and concern, not just doing a job.
Patients need to know that what happens to them matters to you.
It is just that simple.
In his opening remarks this week at the Beryl Institute Patient Experience Conference, Jason Wolf stated just that.
Every voice matters
Every interaction matters.
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