One Philosophy to Achieve the Ultimate Patient Experience

A large percentage of American workplaces — including hospitals and healthcare organizations — are struggling with employee satisfaction, with 52 percent of workers noting being "not engaged" at work, and another 18 percent "actively disengaged" at work during the first half of 2012, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

How do these statistics impact our ability to reach our goals as healthcare organizations? Like other industries, there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and between customer satisfaction and profit. Since our customers are patients (who don't want to be our customers anyway), we are faced with a major challenge. Combine this with the pressures of reduced reimbursements and the industry shift toward value-based care and payment, and it is no wonder many healthcare leaders are contemplating their organizations' very survival.  

While our industry is correctly considering ways to improve patient centered care and quality, we need to take some of that passion and direct it toward our most important resource: our employees, be they front line workers, clinicians, cafeteria staff or management. This philosophy is something I propose in a new book, "Patients Come Second; Leading Change by Changing the Way we Lead," which I co-authored with Britt Berrett, president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

"Patients Come Second" is a title that takes some getting used to. It seems counterintuitive to some, even offensive to others. But Britt and I firmly believe that the best way to improve the experience for our patients is to prioritize our work by improving our internal cultures, so that our employees feel connected to the purpose that brought them to this industry in the first place. It is not a question of ranking what is more important, but a question of leading and lagging indicators of success. In that regard, I firmly believe that the most successful organizations with the most loyal customers (or patients) have focused first on an internal culture of engagement, where leadership shows a genuine interest in the growth and development of its people. In our book, Britt and I interviewed many noteworthy hospital CEOs. Elliot Joseph, CEO of Hartford (Conn.) Healthcare was one. He believes that "without an engaged workface that's capable of changing the way we do things, we can't succeed."

Your culture and work environment can be changed for the better without a complete organizational overhaul or a large budget allocation. It starts with a commitment from the top of the organization to live by a set of core values that guide daily decision making. It then extends to the development of a hiring program that focuses as much on fit as it does skill, and requires the courage to move the wrong people out of the organization. Making people feel good about their jobs is as simple as making them feel good about themselves. This can be done through robust reward and recognition programs, encouraging fun in the workplace and engaging employees in community service efforts. It also means the execution of training and development programs that give people a visible path to growth. It is essentially about making people feel valued beyond their paycheck.

Dane Peterson, CEO of Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta claims that "engaged employees are willing to go the extra mile — for themselves, their coworkers and their customers."  

It's also very important to note that engagement goes beyond employees to anyone that touches the patient during their experience. This could even mean outsourcers or vendors who are exposed to your patients before, during or after care. When your hospital is hiring partners who will interact with your patients, they are an extension of your brand and should share the same philosophies and practices around employee engagement to ensure a consistent approach throughout the continuum of care.

"Without employee engagement, you're never going to get the ultimate patient experience you're hoping for," says Mike Packnett, CEO of Parkview Health in Fort Wayne, Ind.

So forgive the shocking title. We're all actually after the same thing — outstanding patient care and the ultimate patient experience.

Paul Spiegelman is founder & CEO of BerylHealth, a technology-enabled patient experience solutions company. Mr. Spiegelman has 27 years of experience in the healthcare industry and as an entrepreneur, grew BerylHealth through innovative leadership and culture focused philosophies. Mr. Spiegelman is an author, speaker and contributor on employee engagement, leadership and culture best practices. Mr. Spiegelman welcomes your communication at or on Twitter @PaulSpiegelman.

More Articles Featuring Paul Spiegelman:

10 Ideas That Hospital and Health System CEOs Need to Ditch
Personalizing the Patient Experience: Thoughts From Paul Spiegelman, CEO of The Beryl Companies
6 Issues That Damage Employee Satisfaction in Hospitals

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