5 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience in 2016

by Jeannie Walters

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Improve the Patient Experience

It was a privilege to present at the recent Next Generation Patient Experience conference. I had never attended a conference solely focused on healthcare, so I learned a lot about what innovative healthcare systems are doing to improve the patient experience.

There are definite best practices, but there are still a lot of unknowns. Healthcare is just catching up to the idea they are competing in a consumer-driven culture. The old way of doing things just isn’t going to work for much longer.

It was truly inspiring to hear doctors, executives and caretakers of all kinds discuss what’s important to patients. Here are a few themes:

1. Access

This is the word used regarding scheduling and geography and everything in between. How accessible is healthcare?

From a customer experience perspective, I couldn’t help but wonder if they consider things like customer effort score. When I try to call for an appointment, why do I have to call on their terms? Why can’t I schedule via a mobile app? Some providers are starting to offer convenience like this, but it certainly isn’t the norm yet.

 patient experience mobile integration

2. Digital and mobile integration

Giving both doctors and patients tools to share information this way is on the rise. But the concern is how to use these tools without losing the person-to-person interactions which are so critical. Doctors raved about having mobile tablets to receive and react to real-time information, but patients require education about how they are used. Perception is reality, and if the patient perceives care takers using tablets or mobile devices as a distraction to care, they simply won’t work.

3. Reviewing and training on “soft” skills

The best experiences are always linked to people. But what if a physician doesn’t understand how his or her body language can impact the way a patient perceives their experience? These are the questions being dealt with now.

One of my favorite examples was using video to show doctors and nurses how they were really behaving. Of course there were things they didn’t “see” until they reviewed their interactions on video.

4. Creating a can-do environment for the patients.

Just like any organization, culture is king in healthcare organizations. If every employee is driven by avoiding punishment instead of doing what’s right for the patient they are serving, the experience of everyone will suffer.

patient empowerment

5. Giving patients and their families a voice when they need it.

Many organizations now have patient and family advisory councils. These groups provide feedback on everything from how often should a new mom be interrupted in her room to what’s the most compassionate way to share that a loved one has died. They have a voice that is heard by the people who need to hear it.

It’s enlightening to hear what the leaders in this space are tackling. Nurses and others deal with “compassion fatigue.” Some specialties have a high rate of doctor burnout. As new electronic and digital solutions are incorporated into their workflows, the most experienced workers can feel left behind and incompetent.

It’s not easy. But it’s truly important to see the results we all want to see. If we, as patients, experience compassionate care and feel seen and heard, we experience better outcomes in our overall health.

Yes, healthcare has a ways to go in their patient experience work. But I’m very encouraged by what I am seeing and proud to be a very small part of it.

Image credits: Amy the NurseTai Chiahungtedeytan via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience.

Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter.

Learn more here.

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