Fundamentals First: The reaffirming value of embedding a human-centric approach across the entire care continuum

With technology-driven innovation having become routine and expected across the healthcare ecosystem, a human-focused approach to innovation can be a great differentiator.

During a March Becker's Hospital Review podcast sponsored by NRC Health, Toya Gorley, improvement advisor at NRC Health, and Elizabeth Paskas, DNP, senior vice president and chief patient experience officer at Hackensack Meridian Health, (N.J.), discussed how implementing a Fundamentals First philosophy can organically improve the patient experience and reconnect providers with their purpose. 

Three key takeaways were:

  1. To elevate the patient experience, organizations should adopt a Fundamentals First mentality. This entails ensuring that patients and families feel welcome and respected, that their healthcare experiences are easy and consistent and that those experiences are delivered in a way that engenders trust.

    NRC Health has identified three priorities that can help organizations achieve those goals:
    • Reconnect providers to the importance of patient experience across the continuum of care and across every touchpoint, both physical and digital.
    • Make human connections standard by ensuring that everyone in the organization has the skills and capacity to demonstrate concern, caring and empathy.
    • Take care of providers by celebrating them and freeing them up to do what they came into healthcare to do.

"Fundamental First means recommitting to the evidence-based best practices that we know lead to more meaningful experiences for patients, families and healthcare employees," Ms. Gorley said.

  1. Successfully implementing Fundamentals First depends on involving front-line staff. Hospitals and health systems that are interested in the Fundamentals First approach should make sure its implementation reflects the distinct realities of all providers who are involved in a patient's care.

    "It is [about] making human connection standard work [in a way that] outlines what that looks like for different people that contribute differently to the patient care journey," Dr. Paskas said. "How do we help them make connections so their work is more meaningful, and for the patient it's meaningful, too?"

  1. Some staff may need a bit of convincing to embrace Fundamentals First. One of the ways that Hackensack Meridian Health has operationalized the Fundamentals First philosophy is by championing care companions. A care companion is a family member or friend who accompanies a patient throughout their care journey and who is not considered a visitor, but rather an essential component of the patient experience. As such, care companions are not subject to restrictions and rules that typically apply to visitors, such as visiting hours.

    In addition to providing comfort and company to patients, care companions can take on many of the tasks that nurses are often called on to do but that patients do not need licensed healthcare professionals to help them with.

    "How many fewer falls will you have on your unit because someone's going to be there to prevent patients from getting out of bed? How many fewer call lights go off because someone's asking for a meal table to come closer or a phone to be charged or to find the TV remote?" Dr. Paskas asked, pointing out some benefits of embedding companions as a routine part of the patient journey.

    "A lot of [explaining the Fundamentals First approach for care companions] was about talking to the nursing teams and helping them understand the value that it had for them . . . so then they can bring their value to the patient," Dr. Paskas concluded.

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