The patient experience matters for patients and clinicians alike: Q&A with Ryan Chesterman, NAPA’s Service Experience Coach

In the value-based payment era, patient satisfaction has reverberated beyond reimbursements and consumerism to demand changes in how clinicians deliver care. Research shows that when clinicians enhance the patient experience with better communication and compassion, clinical outcomes improve and clinicians feel better, too.

Ryan Chesterman is the Service Experience Coach at North American Partners in Anesthesia (NAPA), charged with helping anesthesia clinicians produce optimal patient experiences through training and data-based initiatives that benefit patients, clinicians, and hospital partners.

Question: The patient experience movement is transforming healthcare into an industry in which customer service is becoming as important as clinical outcomes. What does this mean for individual clinicians?

Ryan Chesterman: It’s a game-changer, because customer service has historically been absent from the curriculum at most medical and nursing schools—and creating the best patient experiences has a lot to do with delivering superior customer service along the care continuum. One of the benefits of the value-based payment era is that we now have quantitative data about patient satisfaction, so that in terms of service, clinicians can understand what they’re doing well and where they can do better. This data tells us that patients want to feel a closer connection with their clinicians, but for hospitals, switching the culture from volume-driven to patient-focused can be challenging. To succeed in this environment, clinicians must embrace the proven benefits of better patient communication, and act on the desire to demonstrate compassion for patients and their families. For many, it means mastering a whole new skill set.

Question: Although healthcare clinicians know how satisfaction scores relate to profitability, from both financial incentives and consumer decision-making, getting people to change their personal behaviors can be equally challenging. How do you effect change?

Ryan Chesterman: My career focus in healthcare for more than 15 years has been on patient engagement and connectivity. Working with clinicians, I’ve found that they generally welcome knowledge and want to do the best for their patients, so when I meet with clinicians, first I review the data, because the numbers speak for themselves. Then I teach verbal and non-verbal skills to help the clinicians understand how easy it is to put communication and compassion into their practice.
For example, after I met with the anesthesia clinicians at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Dr. Gary Friedman, who serves as the hospital’s Chairman of Anesthesia and is also the President of the New Hampshire Society of Anesthesiologists, said, “I’ve incorporated several of Ryan’s suggestions…and I can tell you the response is amazing. There’s a moment of interactive trust and compassion that I believe patients feel. It’s very powerful…”

Question: Besides helping patients to feel safer because clinicians are listening to their concerns, are there other benefits that come with integrating more personal communication into care and building stronger patient relationships?

Ryan Chesterman: Most importantly, based on evidence-based studies, the HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) says, “Patients with better care experiences often have better health outcomes.” And in this case, what’s good for the patient is also good for the clinician, a surprising study at The Cleveland Clinic showed that clinicians who participated in a communication skills training course reported lower feelings of burnout and higher levels of empathy. They also valued their new skills and reported positive changes in attitude. We know that when patients feel empathy and clinicians are engaged hospitals do better, so this is a relatively easy but very effective way to score a win-win-win for all stakeholders.

Question: Your internal role as Service Experience Coach is unusual for an anesthesia services company like NAPA. Why did NAPA create this position?

Ryan Chesterman: As a clinician-led organization, NAPA is centered around always doing what’s right for its patients. Although anesthesia often gets lost in conversations about patient satisfaction, the company has always recognized that its anesthesia clinicians, who are uniquely situated in perioperative care, can significantly contribute to positive patient experiences by taking the time to connect on a very personal level. NAPA collects quality data from the more than one million patients that its clinicians serve annually, and uses this information to drive optimal outcomes. It is also very focused on innovation, leadership, and adding value for its hospital partners. The idea of a Service Experience Coach evolved from strong patient satisfaction initiatives that NAPA has developed in recent years. Investing resources to create this position elevates NAPA’s commitment to its patients and their families, as well as its clinicians and hospital partners.

Please click here to learn more about North American Partners in Anesthesia. 

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