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Every Patient Has a Story

I have just returned from my first Beryl Institute Patient Experience Conference 2016 (PX2016), and I’m inspired. At Wellpepper, we are focused on empowering the patient to feel ownership and accountability to participate in their healthcare journey. The Beryl Institute and their members are doing the same and it was great to connect with so many like-minded people. The PX2016 conference is just one way they bring together this community.

PX2016 is 6 years young and attended by mostly caregivers, nurses, doctors, regular people who were touched by a personal health experience and now are in the field, and patients. With only 1000 attendees, it’s possible to form relationships. There was lots of hugging, sharing, pictures and overall excitement to be in Dallas. I met several newbies and like me, they were inspired too.

The conference opened up with a real life patient story. Les, a heart attack survivor, told his story of how he was participating in a sculling exercise and went into cardiac arrest in the middle of the water. The following chain of events happened that allowed him to be standing in front of us to tell his story. A retired nurse was on board and jumped into action to do CPR (she was filling in for her friend who couldn’t make it), the bowman had his cell phone to call 911 (typically he doesn’t bring it on the boat), another rower in his own boat happened to be near the dock gate and had a key to unlock the gate (usually locked because it was 5:30AM) which allowed the paramedics to get to Les. If there was one break in that chain, Les would not be with us. He went on to share his experience about his care at UCLA Medical Center and how every touch point from the people on the boat, to paramedics, to the care team made a difference in his recovery. By this time, there was not a dry eye in the place. It was all about why we in this profession of healthcare really do want to make a difference in the patient experience.

This lead to the theme that every patient has a story. From the other keynotes to the sessions I attended, this theme was pervasive. The focus of PX 2016 is to share stories, best practices and ideas on how to bring together interactions, culture and perceptions across the continuum of care.

In the session, Removing Complexity from the Post-Acute Care Patient (one of our passions at Wellpepper), it became clear that the long term care model needs to be reinvented for simplicity. True simplicity comes from matching the patient’s experience with the patient’s expectations. As an example, The New Jewish Home is renaming its post-acute rehabilitation to The Rapid Recovering Center which supports setting a different tone for the patient and ultimately in their experience. When a patient is sent to a post-acute rehabilitation center it can suggest a long and difficult recovery. But, naming it the Rapid Recovery Center aligns with the patient’s expectation of wanting to get better as soon as possible.

Another session that hit close to Wellpepper’s core values was how University of Chicago puts family and patients first in their patient experience strategy. Enhancing Patient Experience and Engagement through Technology Innovation by Sue Murphy, RN, Executive Director- Patient Experience and Engagement Program and Dr. Alison Tothy, Associate CMO – Patient Experience and Engagement Program at University of Chicago suggest the ability to capture real-time opportunities for engaging patients in their care and in their service expectations with innovative technology and techniques can lead to overall happier patients. Such technologies like rounding, discharge call centers and interactive patient care have led to substantial outcome improvements. However, just implementing technology did not solve the patient experience challenge. A culture shift in the staff was required which inspired them focus on individualized care for each patient. Combining a culture shift with innovative technology has allowed the University of Chicago to increase patient satisfaction scores, reduce readmission rates and improve outcomes. Furthermore, leadership is engaged and excited about the power of technology to improve the patient experience.

To bring it to a close, we were inspired by another personal patient story from Kelly Corrigan. She is a New York Times best-selling author who shares her most personal stories, including her health challenges. She has had more than her share of health encounters between herself and her family. She read an excerpt from her book, The Middle Place, where her and her Dad where both diagnosed with cancer in the same year. It was a compassionate and funny rendition of when she just starting her chemotherapy sessions and her Dad came across country for support. She talked about how in the middle of crisis, magnificent can happen. She was amazed to witness how all the people around her, including herself, able to conform into the new reality – cancer. Although a happy ending for her, not so much for her father. He passed away last year. She emphasized how at the end of her father’s journey, she made a point to thank all the caregivers for they really did make a difference in a very difficult time. Then looking out at all of us in the audience at that moment, almost with a tone of authority, she challenged us to hold on to the feelings of why we went into healthcare.

For some of us, it was a personal experience. For others, it was the opportunity to make a difference. Regardless, as Kelly so eloquently put it, people want to feel as if they have been felt and be a good listener because every patient has a story.

Posted in: Behavior Change, chronic disease, Healthcare transformation, Managing Chronic Disease, patient engagement, Patient Satisfaction

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