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Response: The Patient Experience Revolution Has Arrived

By Timothy Poulton, MD

Dr. Timothy Poulton of The IHE.

I enjoyed reading Chuck Lauer’s article, The Patient Experience Revolution Has Arrived, posted last week.  He reflects on the growing awareness that healthcare has changed.  Patient experience, if it was not already, has rapidly become the center of our world.

Lauer notes that patients today are often saddled with increased costs in high-deductible plans.  In addition, there are many options from which to choose.  Patients approach these options with the same consumer savvy they would apply to other major expenditures and not only expect more – they demand it.  We are no longer in the days of patients’ hands firing off an unhappy letter or email of complaint.  Dissatisfaction can be expressed with their feet… and with their wallets.

But why might patients be dissatisfied to begin with?  As finances have tightened and demands have increased, patients have more often become dehumanized.  We’ve lost some of our ability to form the connections which are not only essential for an excellent patient experience, but also to outstanding quality and patient safety.  Quite simply, the demands of our work, and our lack of effective tools to address these demands, strain our ability to consistently deliver care in an efficient, caring, high quality fashion.

(Related – Adverse Events: Helping Healthcare Providers Respond in a Relationship-Centered Manner)

As the reality of this Patient Experience Revolution sinks in, seeking out and effectively addressing the root causes of these issues is essential.  Those health systems that do will not only survive, but also thrive.  Fundamentally, our organizational culture determines how healthcare providers interact with each other, and with our patients.  When we lose our ability to be present in our work, to foster respectful, meaningful conversations with co-workers and patients, and lose our ability to navigate the emotional challenges we all face; burnout, dehumanization, inefficiency and poor quality follow.

Lauer notes that “the drive for more efficiency shouldn’t overwhelm the opportunity for patient engagement.”  I would take that a step or two further.  Not only are these not competing forces, patient engagement is the road to improve efficiency, quality, safety, and financial stability.

Through our work at the Institute for Healthcare Excellence (IHE), we have seen the power that several simple, but fundamentally important, tools can have.  When equipped with the skills needed for success, culture improves, patient experience improves, provider and staff satisfaction improves – and it does not take longer!

The IHE’s Communication in Healthcare (CIH) curriculum provides the tools needed to address the challenges faced on a daily basis.  CIH allows individuals and organizations to formally identify and enhance their abilities to be present and mindful, to effectively and efficiently elicit information and set an agenda, and to recognize and effectively respond to emotions.  This is not “just another program.”  Effectively implementing CIH system-wide help to provide many of the critical elements required for the kind of culture change The Patient Experience Revolution demands

(Related – What Do Patients Most Desire From Their Healthcare Providers?)

My health system, Mission Health in Asheville, NC, has seen achievement of the Top 5 Health System award from Truven Analytics for 3 consecutive years after engaging in the program.  After implementation at the Mayo Clinic Florida, they saw double digit significant improvement in employee satisfaction, including service to others, mutual respect, and teamwork.

While we may still be near the beginning of the Patient Experience Revolution, it is certainly here to stay.   It provides me with a great deal of satisfaction to have the opportunity to help equip individuals and organizations with the tools needed for patients, and providers, to thrive in this new environment.

Connect with Dr. Poulton on Twitter and also on LinkedIn.