Learning #4: Understanding the patient experience requires a strategic plan, the proper tools, and humility.
Frameworks and tools exist to help organizations better understand their processes from the patient’s perspective, designed to help organizations strategize around improvement, innovation, and redesign to enhance quality, safety, and productivity.
Implications: Understanding what your patients experience when they are in your facility requires humility. This may not be what you think it is; a recent article outlines major components of humility: “Recognition of what she owes to others, comparison with a reality that is greater than her, and finding something that has a high objective value that leads her to acknowledge her smallness.”1 It is a positive virtue that motivates an individual to be open to others, to listen carefully to others, and to assume an attitude of looking for guidance.
It is from this perspective that a leader creates a humble organization; one that has a desire to understand what patients and families go through to obtain care from and with your organization. Thus, putting yourself into the shoes of another, through Shadowing, is an important tool to understand care from the patient and family perspective. Shadowing is a cultural change agent, an orientation tool, and a reminder of your organization’s mission. What you see will go beyond your pre-conceived notions of what it is like to be a patient. It will connect you to other human beings, their vulnerability and goals, and bring out your sense of empathy.
Once you have Shadowed patients, it is imperative to map the process using care experience flow maps, service blueprinting, or other tools to create a clear image of what is. Comparing what you have designed to what customers expect using the Gap Model of Service Quality will help you to reimagine what could and should be, and to redesign the process to best accommodate the patient. By using this methodology your department will also most likely save costs and improve safety.
Making a commitment to seeing your organization’s processes from your patients’ perspectives is not easy – it requires a high level of dedication from top leadership. A Servant Leadership model applies as well, where leaders put the needs of others before their own needs. After all, as humility research reminds us, “the humble leader is precisely the person who is best qualified to transform his firm into a profitable, successful, and respected organization.”
1 Argandona, Antonio (2015), “Humility in Management,” Journal of Business Ethics, 132 (1), 63-71.