Earlier this year at Patient Experience Conference we introduced our latest video,What really matters in Patient Experience?, which called us, through the voices of patients and family members, to consider “all voices matter”, “every interaction matters” and “you matter” in patient experience performance. The subtle message in this video was that for as much as there is clear and recognized individuality in each patient experience story, the needs identified and the outcomes achieved, there are also strong and important commonalities of which we should be aware and on which we must be ready to act.
This same consideration of the value of individuality, yet the power of commonality has arisen with the recent emergence of special interest communities in The Beryl Institute. These groups of individuals focus on key areas of healthcare including patient advocacy, physicians, pediatrics and now patient and family advisors, represent an interesting and critical dichotomy and a balancing we see is needed as we address patient experience. In fact we are encouraged by the interest from all corners of the community to look at other opportunities of focus, such as behavioral health, emergency departments, post acute care, home health and others.
It is clear then that there is a definitive need, one asked for by members of The Beryl Institute, in focusing conversations around shared and special interests. This provides an important opportunity for learning, the collection and dissemination of ideas and the connection among peers. Yet we must also be aware that in doing this, we run the risk of missing opportunities for broader learning and collective focus. While we believe and fully support these independent conversations for all they represent, we too reinforce that there is power in the greater community in which these groups exist. More importantly we cannot lose sight of the opportunity for these communities to learn and share with one another, cross fertilize ideas and grow stronger together as a result.
This idea of creating distinction, or as often seen in healthcare, the delineation of our work in silos, provides us an opportunity to seize, especially as it related to the idea of patient experience. While we might distinguish our efforts and even establish infrastructure and resources in areas such as quality, safety, and service, we too must recognize that these investments collectively are part of our overall experience effort. The question we then should ask, is how are we framing our broader investment in experience excellence overall.
Our recent State of Patient Experience Benchmarking Study revealed that people identified clinical outcomes as the top result of effective experience efforts. This trumped consumer loyalty, customer service and others. Outcomes are what we strive for in healthcare – be they healing and recovery or managing the remaining days of life or be they financial imperatives to create a healthy, vibrant and sustained system of healthcare services. This is the very opportunity we then have in creating alignment among our efforts; weaving together quality, safety, and service, a focus on cost and outcomes, honoring the individuality of all we care for and serve while finding strength in our common actions and purpose; identifying special areas of interest and learning, while striving for collective understanding.
These ideas all come down to one core idea – community matters. In the bringing together of ideas or functions, we do two things – honor and address individual needs, while strengthening our collective stand. This captures the unspoken essence of patient experience itself. As we learned from the voices of the patient and family members so gracious in sharing their stories, while each unique, they too have common desires – to have voice, to be heard, to be treated with dignity and respect, to feel compassion and to receive clinical expertise, to be understood and cared for.
As no two people and in the same light, no two healthcare organizations can or should be alike. We must respect that distinction, while honoring all that brings us together. In balancing this intention in every encounter and every moment we create the opportunity for the best interactions and the most positive of experience. Community matters in patient experience and we must ensure it does for the power of the collection of voices in our movement and in the work it calls us to do every day. We must remain vigilant in ensuring the critical balance of individuality and community. In doing so, we reinforce our call to action – we are all the patient experience.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute