8 clinical leaders share tips for improving the patient experience

Improving patient experience remains a key priority at hospitals and health systems, as it affects every aspect of the organization. 

Becker's Hospital Review asked clinical leaders to share action steps team members can take daily to improve the patient experience. Read their responses below, presented alphabetically.

Editor's note: The following responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Jordan DeMoss
Vice president for clinical operations at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital 

Connect with the patient and their loved ones on a personal level.  Our patients and families are more forgiving of our system complexities than we realize, but they want to know that we care about them as individuals during a vulnerable time in their lives.

Anna J. Kiger, DNP, RN
CNO of Sutter Health (Sacramento, Calif.)

Nurses know that each patient encounter is a separate patient experience, so every moment spent with patients and families is an important one. At Sutter Health, our nurses deliver exceptional patient care and that includes being mindful, slowing down and taking a moment before entering a patient's room. In this way, we're able to focus on the patient’s needs and to provide our patients with an exceptional experience.

Andre Machado, MD, PhD
Chair of Cleveland Clinic's Neurologic Institute  

Remember why we went into healthcare. Healthcare is changing rapidly and will continue to change. The demands on physicians and all healthcare professionals are greater and will continue to evolve. Burnout is now part of the vocabulary across all organizations and it is sometimes quite visible. We all went into health care for a reason, a calling. When constantly stressed and rushed, we can lose that perspective, that memory. I hope that each of us can start the day reminding ourselves why is it that we do what we do and how much our patients rely on us to mitigate their pain, their suffering, their anxiety. By keeping that perspective constant — while acknowledging the pressures— we will do well for our patients and their experience with healthcare. 

Lisa Bryan-Morris, MSN, RN
Vice president of patient care services and CNO of UPMC Passavant (Pittsburgh and Cranberry Township, Pa.)

While it may seem oversimplified, creating the best patient experience is all about communication. Communication requires both give and take, and it does not require increased time. Stop thinking you don't have the time to be an exceptional communicator.

Sitting down at your patient’s bedside, using a whiteboard, reviewing a daily care plan and including the patient and family in shift hand-over report are all different types of communication that will make your patient feel informed and confident in the care they are receiving, and will lead to an excellent patient experience. Effective communication using these techniques will save a team member time, rather than require more time.

For example, if the nurse realizes a patient is hesitant about discharge, the nurse is in a unique position to find out why. Is their home not equipped for the decreased mobility the patient may now be experiencing? Do they feel they don’t have a support person to assist with follow-up appointments? Are they worried about finances? By listening effectively, the nurse can communicate to the right team members to help the patient have a positive transition to home.

Taking the time to actively listen and effectively respond, be it verbal or written, is the foundation of creating the best patient experience.

Madelyn Pearson, DNP, RN
CNO and senior vice president of clinical services for Brigham Health (Boston) 

In nursing, one of the most meaningful things we do is try to learn what is important in our patients' lives outside of their illness or injury so that we can provide care that is truly patient-centered. Establishing a connection with patients and their loved ones by engaging in conversation and listening enables us to advocate on their behalf and meet their needs. Nurses at the Brigham are exceptional at this. In addition to collaborating with interprofessional care team members to help patients achieve their goals of care, nurses also find special ways to care for the whole person. This could mean arranging to bring an ICU patient outside for sunshine, making it possible for patients to celebrate a holiday with their children or finding cinnamon to sprinkle on oatmeal because that's how the patient prepares it at home each morning.

These are some of the ways we help patients maintain their identities while they are in the hospital and let them know how deeply we care. It's not just the experience in the hospital that is important, but also the experiences and milestones in their lives that we want to ensure they don't miss.

Andrew Resnick, MD 
Senior vice president, chief quality and safety officer of Brigham Health

Everything we do in healthcare should be part of an effort to make both the outcome and journey of a patient's care as exceptional as it can be. While patient-centered care is a common focus of every healthcare organization, at Brigham Health we are improving processes to truly organize our operations around patient care, rather than the other way around. One thing all team members can do daily is understand and question how a clinical process is organized — from how clinical teams round to how we check patients into our clinics. Our processes should be optimized to make the patient experience more efficient and pleasant.

Kathleen Sanford, RN
CNO of CommonSpirit Health (Chicago)

Every team member in our hospitals can do one very simple thing each and every day to improve overall patient experience: Give everyone they deal with a few minutes of undivided attention — 180 seconds or so of complete care and concentration. 

In our complex, IT-centric, productivity-driven rush to complete all of our procedures and tasks, we often can be less than completely attentive to the single-most important person we deal with — the patient who has come to us for care.

Just 180 seconds or so of real listening — focused, nonscripted attentiveness, eye contact and true empathy for a vulnerable fellow human — makes a world of difference. It will not only change the patient experience — by demonstrating that we see and care about each one — but it will also help us avoid our own burnout while we gain insights to improve care for all the people who come to us for help.            

Linda Venner, MD
Senior medical director of med surg operations for Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City) 

Make the patient the center of the team!

During 2019, our Intermountain Hospitalists Group developed and implemented a program of dyad rounding at all of our trauma and community hospitals. Dyad rounding incorporates three vital behaviors: hospitalist provider round[s] with the patient and bedside nurse; the nurse verbally reports a safety checklist; and the provider completes a directly observed coaching session to improve communication skills. 

During rounding, the treatment team solicits and answers patient questions and ends by writing the patient's goal for the day on a whiteboard, so all caregivers interacting with the patient know what to focus on that day. 


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