The 3Cs of improving the patient experience: collaboration, connection, and correction

In today's highly competitive environment, hospitals must go above and beyond to provide an exceptional patient experience — but patient experience cannot be viewed in isolation.

During a July 2022 Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Vituity, a panel of patient experience experts shared best practices for designing an optimal experience by enabling a wholesale culture change. Panelists were:

  • Deanna Gunter, director of patient experience and volunteer services, Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center Redding (Calif.)
  • Swati Mehta, MD, national director of quality & patient experience, Vituity
  • Jody Spector, director of patient relations and service excellence, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center (Mission Hills, Calif.)
  • Quint Studer, partner, Healthcare Plus Solutions Group

Three key takeaways were:

  1. Improving the patient experience goes hand in hand with improving the provider experience. The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and provider burnout acerbated staff shortages and underscored the importance of ensuring a positive caregiver experience. "If your cup is full, you will pour," Dr. Mehta said, noting a shared sentiment among health leaders now that the focus on "experience" as a component of care must necessarily include the experience of providers.

    Acting with empathy is key to achieving this goal because it strengthens the connection that clinicians feel to their work and increases their satisfaction. For example, during the pandemic some providers set up "healing rooms" to help caregivers rest and regroup, provided counseling services and improved supportive communication.

    Another approach is to narrow the scope of what clinicians and caregivers are asked to do and limit it only to activities that are most impactful. "Scoping down the work [helps] people accomplish it. Simple equals always and always equals consistency," Mr. Studer said, alluding to improving care quality by reducing variation. He added that patient experience is also improved when providers are shown the impact of their work on patient outcomes: "Who doesn't want to make sure people know the side effects of medication?"

  1. Reinforcing the human connection plays a key role in improving patient experience. To connect better with patients and improve their experience, it is important that healthcare professionals move beyond scripted questions, such as those asked during rounds, and get to know their patients in a more authentic way. "We've seen patients actually get better, sit up and connect more, because we're focusing on who they are versus why they're there and helping them heal," Ms. Gunter said.

    "Know the patient, learn who they are as a person, teach them about medications," added Ms. Spector, whose organization's promise statement captures the way that patients would like to be treated: Know me, care for me, ease my way.

  1. Human connection-focused culture change can power transformational benefits. Some practical steps healthcare organizations have taken to enable a human connection-focused culture of care include:

    • Bedside whiteboards where patients can leave "know me as a person" notes to facilitate that connection from a place of comfort.
    • A commit-to-sit on the part of clinicians when engaging with patients in order to be at eye level with them.
    • Care cards that are handed out to patients and have their caregiver's photo, role, a brief statement about their professional day-to-day and an estimate of the time the patient is expected to be in their care.
    • Physician shadowing and taking note of the things that they are doing well and that patients are responding to positively.

As a result of such tactical innovations, organizations can improve their placement in national rankings and their net promoter scores. At a more strategic level, Vituity, which serves as an advisor and collaborator to organizations looking to improve the patient experience, leverages a multifaceted approach called "the 3 Cs": improving collaboration between teams, facilitating the human connection and taking corrective action when necessary.

"Leadership alone cannot move mountains — the mountain is moved when the front line is involved," Dr. Mehta concluded.

To watch this webinar replay, click here.

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