Old Dog, New Tricks: How the Healthcare Industry is Shifting Its Focus Back to Patient Care

The healthcare industry’s shift towards focusing on the patient experience is not really anything new. Since the beginning of healthcare, the relationship between doctors and patients has played a critical role in the quality of care and overall patient satisfaction. But somewhere along the way, the healthcare industry lost touch with serving patients. Pressures to do more with less, doctors working excessive hours to pay off student loans, and a lack of compassion across the board have led to a lackluster patient experience (PX). PX is an example of how the industry moved from an industrial economy to service economy, and many PX challenges are rooted in breaking away from the old industrial management training. Leaders in healthcare need to adapt with an emotional intelligence component if they want to create a better patient experience. There are many reasons to improve the patient experience, including happier patients, more engaged employees, and better clinical and business results. So, here are some ways in which the industry can shift its focus back to serving patients:

1) Balance the “Give and Take”: It can be easy for those who work in healthcare to become desensitized to situations that are often uncomfortable or concerning for patients and their families. Healthcare providers must empathize with the patients and provide them with proper information, concern, and care to establish trust. Trust is an essential part of relationship building. Creating a balance of give and take increases trust and is critical to establishing a strong patient-provider relationship. As Brokee Billingsley from the Healthcare Experience Foundation explains, “Like Covey’s Emotional Bank, we believe many people, especially in the workplace have a lack of understanding as to how relationships work. There must be a balanced give and take between parties or the only one who is giving will become disenfranchised. That’s what happened in healthcare; the industry became so focused on performance that caregivers [notice the “give” in caregivers] were asked to constantly extract, extract, extract [information, blood, comfort, etc.] from their patients without really giving much back. Patients have had enough! What patients want most is for someone to listen to them and show them respect…not this one-way street.”

2) Create a Connection: At the core of all human relationships is a desire for connection. The same is true in health care as patients desire to feel connected to their providers. This connection extends beyond health, as Anton Mitchell Teehankee of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital describes, “Our hospital’s “connected purpose” with patients is not just health…it is understanding…and understanding starts with listening. So we listen first, before we act or begin asking too many questions. And if we get it wrong and there is a complaint, we make sure we use that moment as an opportunity to listen again. We are sure to write out what we have heard [not what we want to hear] so we can both use it to prevent issues in the future, but also to show the patient that we listened, understood, and did something about it. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE CAN DO IS BE SURE THE PATIENT IS HEARD. I cherish the opportunity to take a negative perspective and take positive actions to turn it around.”

3) Recognize Successes: Focusing on the patient experiences means that there has to be support in understanding how to go about delivering the right experience. Proper training and coaching is key to ensuring patients feel welcomed, appreciated, and well cared for. When coaching caregivers, remember to recognize successes and encourage their behavior. As Elizabeth Upham, Director of Patient Experience at Capital Health System explains: “The most important tool we have in our arsenal is recognition. An ounce of positive reinforcement is worth a ton of punitive measures.” Support change one caregiver at a time, and you will reap the rewards of successful behavioral change in the organization.

It’s time for healthcare organizations to get back to the basics of establishing relationships and connecting with their patients.

At SGEi, we focus on delivering the right training and tools to ensure your healthcare organization is delivering the best patient experience possible. Connect with us today to learn how we can help.

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