The words of the day in healthcare of late, especially in light of the policy undertones influencing the system in the U.S., are around engagement and activation, especially of patients, but also focused on staff, physicians and community. Studies show that activated patients are more apt to have greater patient experiences (When Seeing the Same Physician, Highly Activated Patients Have Better Care Experiences Than Less Activated Patients, Health Affairs, July 2013 32(7):1295–1305) and the e-patient revolution is well underway as exemplified by such organizations as the Society for Participatory Medicine. Papers espouse the power of staff engagement as the means to better experience (The Role of Organization Culture in a Positive Patient Experience, The Beryl Institute, 2012) and community engagement is reflected by growing involvement in strategic efforts such as what I experienced at the William Osler Health System in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
While these ideas are external efforts that influence specific organizational strategies and associated actions, I was struck with the recognition this too is what we have worked to model via The Beryl Institute ourselves. As a global community of practice, we have been clear in declaring a mission to create a dynamic space for members to convene, engage and contribute to elevating, expanding and enriching the global dialogue on improving the patient experience.
In just the last two weeks we held the very first call for our Global Patient and Family Advisory Council (GPFAC), an incredible group of patients and family members committed to serving in ensuring patient and family voice is part of the patient experience movement. Their generosity of spirit and commitment to this cause left me inspired and excited for all we still have to do in our efforts to improve experience. We also met with our Patient Experience Advisory Board for their quarterly call to review our direction and strategy as an Institute and ensure we are meeting the needs of those on the front lines addressing the patient experience every day. In that conversation I was moved by the excitement and commitment to the movement we all support. It is through the generosity and spirit of these two groups, and also the continued contributions of members and guests via On the Road visits, sharing case studies, and through a record number of Patient Experience Conference speaking submissions, as just a few examples, that the sense of involvement was palpable.
Involvement, you could argue is a play on all these words: engaged, activated or even participatory. I do not want to play the semantics game, but for sake of discussion, one can be engaged or even “activated” without a true bias for action, they can simply serve as states of “being”, not doing. Perhaps this is why the Gallup Organization uses the term “actively engaged” to reinforce their measures of a highly engaged workforce. Participation, more so, suggests action, as it requires the individual to be doing something. Involvement continues to expand that reason, from one of a state of being to one of acting. In fact one definition of involvement I saw encompassed these very terms (parenthetical comments are my own): to engage (an action) as a participant (an active contributor).
The takeaway for me here is simple, as we have seen in countless organizational visits, cases and presentations, as we have uncovered in research efforts and benchmarking studies and perhaps most importantly what we have experienced in our very organization is that not only does involvement matter, it has significant influence on what can be achieved, how it is achieved and how quickly it can be achieved. An unassuming word on its own, involvement, may provide a profoundly important key to success in a healthcare world now intently focused on the improvement of the experience of all, patients, family members, community and caregivers. I believe that involvement is a fundamental component of any path to patient experience success. The question that now remains is how involved are you in your efforts and how willing are you to involve others in your success? I also strongly invite you to get involved in the patient experience movement and The Beryl Institute. We all still have significant and exciting work ahead!
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute