Healthcare leaders Q&A on how human understanding influences patient care

The global pandemic of COVID-19 and its variants has caused all healthcare organizations to quickly learn the necessity of transformational change in meeting demand and moving the industry forward. NRC Health recently interviewed several nationally recognized healthcare leaders on the critical role Human Understanding plays in healthcare to drive growth, personalize care, build trust, drive loyalty and equity, transform services and exceed expectations.

Q. What does Human Understanding mean to you?

"I think Human Understanding is as much a way of thinking and a cultural mindset as it is a way of conducting business," says Mike Puchtler, Vice President of Patient Experience at ChristianaCare Health System. "I think that Human Understanding implies deep listening. It implies real caring for your customers and your stakeholders, and it's all encompassing."

Steve Telliano, M.A., Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategic Communications for UC Davis Health, explains that Human Understanding means taking a patient-centered approach to everything. "We must understand that we are there to see patients on what is most likely the most stressful, or potentially worst, day of their lives."

Q. What are ways you have illustrated Human Understanding in your healthcare system?

1) Delivering raving customer-patient feedback

Jennifer Baron, CPXP, Chief Experience Officer at UC Davis Health, remembers a recent high-school graduate who'd been involved in a burn accident who was struggling emotionally.

Baron says the team member knew that the patient played football, and his coaching staff and teammates were important to him. She arranged for the team and his coaches to come to the front lawn. His care team brought the patient outside, saying that they were just taking him out for some fresh air. Outside stood his entire team and coaching staff, in matching shirts with posters.

"Not a dry eye in the place!" Baron remembers. "I thought, Wow, that really connects all of us to why we're here and what we do, and how we care for people as people. The patient ended up taking the first steps he had taken since the accident in front of all his friends, family and coaches.

2) Collaborating for patient comfort

Several healthcare leaders recalled the Human Understanding their workforces showed in getting telehealth platforms up and running at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it was necessary for everyone to pitch in to help patients — no matter who oversaw what area.

"Our telehealth team was small but mighty, but they weren't ready for what happened overnight," says Kira Theesfeld, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Nemours Children's Health. "We [initially] averaged 60 [calls] a day and went to nearly 1,000 a day. That took different members of our teams all coming together to help hold the hand of our patient families and lead them to connect with telehealth providers."

3) Adopting patient feedback—and listening carefully

Peggy Greco, Ph.D., Medical Director of Patient Experience at Nemours Children's Health, says Human Understanding has pointed out that healthcare systems using patient feedback have a lot of ground to make up in providing equitable care for everyone.

"I think it's tuning in to those humans whom we have typically excluded from the same high-quality, safe care that many have received for decades," she says. "I think many of our recent success stories really focus on decreasing disparities, even for what you might consider tiny matters.

Six Human Understanding Imperatives for Healthcare

Healthcare leaders can model NRC Health's six Human Understanding imperatives to strengthen their commitment to consumers:

1. Drive growth by using patient ratings to amplify why you are the best choice for care

2. Personalize care by understanding what matters most to each patient

3. Build trust by checking in to identify and address questions, readiness and safety risk

4. Exceed expectations by collecting and reporting feedback to spark action

5. Drive loyalty and equity by treating every patient as a unique person

6. Transform services by surfacing needs voiced by the communities you serve

When healthcare organizations lead with Human Understanding by treating each person as unique, they will be more than ready to meet the challenges the future brings.

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