In some of my most recent blogs and in current publications from The Beryl Institute we have expanded the dialogue on the importance and power of voice in driving towards a positive patient experience. It is only fitting to take pause of this, as today – November 6, 2012 – in the United States represents one of the most powerful examples of the expression of voice to be found. In electing a President, citizens of the U.S. of all backgrounds and beliefs have the opportunity to be heard. The intention is that every voice regardless of how young or old, soft or loud, rich or poor has value in a broader dialogue about the greater good and direction of the country.
As I travel to healthcare organizations and engage with patients and families, caregivers and leaders, one thing stands out. It is the great alignment these individuals have in desiring and working to ensure the best care outcomes and overall experience possible. The recognition in this expanding dialogue on experience is not one of cynicism or even submission to simple performance on surveys, but one driven on the same passion and commitment to the wellbeing of our fellow human beings as those that vote to support the best in what they believe.
The common denominator in these ideas is the most critical component of all we do in healthcare, in our world of human beings caring for human beings. The power is that of voice and the voice of all, be it spoken, written, sung or signed. Healthcare organizations around the world bring people together at the most critical times of our lives – from the joys of birth, to the tears of a last breath – and this is not something any of us do alone. It takes the hearts, minds and yes, voices of many to make it work. It is the voices of patients and families in expressing their needs, but also sharing their fears and pains. It is the voices of caregivers who contribute to the best processes of care and support for one another. It is the voices of physicians who bring great insight and education along with the powerful ability to heal. It is the voices of staff that in basements, back rooms, and labs sew together the web through which the paths of care are supported. It is the voices of leaders who set visions and inspire and hold the space for all voices to truly make a difference in how we care for one another.
I had someone suggest to me once that if we allow room for all these voices, we give in to chaos at the cost of processes of care; that the input from all corners of a healthcare experience, be it acute or pediatric, ambulatory or practice-based, cause a murkiness that only leads to confusion. My response was simple, and my experiences have proven it to be true more and more each day. The chaos only exists if we fail to listen. When we get beneath what some may perceive to be noise, we realize there is a great commitment to the idea that every one is working towards the health and well being of those in care. By bringing together a symphony of voices we not only engage people, but we also expand the potential of what we can accomplish.
There is no magic formula or process for the gathering of voices. The methods and processes are rather clear, be they surveys, focus groups, advisory councils or committees for patients, staff, physicians and leadership. More important is the fact that we choose to acknowledge that all of these individuals have a voice to share and it may be in the most unsuspecting moment that the most impactful idea emerges. Perhaps in the end it is simple, that improving the patient experience is nothing more than a critical dialogue that must be fostered, nurtured and supported in ensuring that we listen and understand that each and every voice matters.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute