Safety culture is the foundation of exceptional patient experiences

Now more than ever before, health systems are spending time and energy around patient satisfaction and experience. New priorities to develop reliable patient experience strategies stem from unprecedented transparency, financial incentives and consumerism.

However, there are two gaps in the reliable patient experience: one is not looking at patient experience beyond amenities, and the other is not blending patient experience strategies with patient safety strategies. Unless the experience a patient has is at its core safe, nothing else really matters. Based on experience, here is a list, in order, of what patients value:

1- A Safe Experience – caregivers are competent and do not harm the patient

2-A Personalized Experience - caregivers honor the individuals' needs, diagnosis, wants, desires as much as possible

3-An Understandable Experience- communication regarding the patient's care is clear and constant

4-A Compassionate Experience- over and above competency- care is provided with authentic empathy

5-A Comforting Experience- care is enhanced by appropriate amenities

There are many opportunities for healthcare leaders to refine the scope of patient experience activities. One of the most important ways is to blend safety standards and processes into the effort so that patients can feel more confident from the very first contact. This sense of confidence offers a positive frame of mind for future interactions with caregivers. Health systems can incorporate safety culture into patient experiences by:

• assessing the current safety culture to see where it currently stands
• developing authentic messaging around the importance of safety
• creating a partnership between patients and caregivers on the topic
• building a strong awareness of the safety commitment among every person who comes in contact with a patient.

For years many have focused on patient comfort and boosting patient satisfaction scores, but a reliable performance around patient satisfaction and patient safety requires a focus on culture, not scores. A full structure must first be in place to fulfill the "do no harm" promise for every patient, every day. That's the foundation of an exceptional customer experience.

Diane Stover-Hopkins is a nationally known healthcare expert on patient experience, innovation culture and co-author of the book, Wake Up and Smell the Innovation. She is the Principal Healthcare Consultant for DuPont Sustainable Solutions, Wilmington, DE. You can reach her at

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