Find Your Magic Moments in Creating an Unparalleled Patient Experience

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with our friends at the Disney Institute and visit Walt Disney World. My experience raised some issues for me that often come up in conversations I hear in our healthcare environment. From my first days in healthcare I heard the comments, “We are not a hotel so that won’t work here,” or “we are not in hospitality so we can’t do that here.” I must admit I have too become a creature of our own environment and have slowly been pulled into what I have come to call the “we are unique” zone.

As someone that has worked with numerous hospitals of all shapes, sizes and locales, I have heard time and again the rally cry that healthcare is a unique environment.  While I do not think any of us inside (or even outside) of healthcare would ever challenge that statement, I believe we need to consider two things. One, that every industry is unique in its own right and therefore has its own opportunities and challenges, and two, that we all have an opportunity to learn from those other experiences.  While we may not adopt others’ ideas directly, we can find new ways of addressing our own issues by broadening our perspectives.

My “ah-ha” emerged from a jumble of hand-scribbled notes about how wonderfully Disney operated based on a culture committed to service. This was mixed in with a simultaneous questioning of how these points would translate into any of the healthcare environments we serve — from hospitals, to medical practices, to surgery centers and beyond.  My question came from the observation that people choose to show up at the Magic Kingdom, to spend their hard-earned dollars, to have what for some is an experience of a lifetime. For these guests the wow often hits with the anticipation of the visit before even setting foot on the property.  So, I reasoned, of course these people will be satisfied, even overjoyed with their experience…and asked…so what more is there to do?  The fact is that Disney (named for the sake of my experience here, but I have also seen this in certain hotels, airlines, small businesses and elsewhere) could let people thrive purely on that excitement and anticipation, yet they choose to provide quality service by exceeding guests’ expectations every day.

Here is my point. An organization that represents a magical experience doesn’t leave service to chance (or magic). They are purposeful in their actions to ensure they provide what their guests desire. So what are the implications for healthcare? For as much good as we do every day and for every life we touch (and often save), people don’t lay in bed “too excited to sleep” prior to a hospital visit.  They may be awake, but it is due to the anticipation, fear, nervousness and anxiety that accompany any health issue.  In this way, we are unique. But where we cannot be unique is in our commitment to exceed our guests’ expectations.  If an organization that people choose to visit recognizes the need that service takes effort, we in healthcare must recognize it takes just a little bit more. We must be committed and focused on efforts that ensure unparalleled experiences for our own guests (our patients, their families and support groups) and we must be a little more intentional every day through every encounter to ensure these people are wowed.

In the chaotic environment of healthcare, we can always find excuses for what will distract us, or what takes precedent strategically, clinically or financially. The one thing we cannot find excuses for is our commitment to creating magical moments in every encounter. It is even ok to acknowledge that in healthcare we are in fact unique. We have to do just that little bit more for each individual we touch to alleviate their pain or anxiety and ensure they are on a path to healing. And we need to do so knowing that we delivered (and they received) not just quality care, but an unparalleled experience.

We are working to collect and share your stories and invite you to comment on what you are doing in your organization to create magical moments. What you share here is a true gift for others and we thank you in advance for your contributions.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute