A Few Things I’ve Learned About What It Takes to Become a Patient-Centered Organization – Learning #1

In October of last year, I had the honor of delivering a keynote address for the 2015 PFCC VisionQuest in Pittsburgh, PA. I structured my talk around four key points that I’ve learned over the years as I’ve engaged with healthcare organizations regarding Patient Experience and culture change.

Since I delivered my talk, I’ve come to realize that providing learnings is not enough. Those in attendance may have found inspiration from my talk, but I could have done more to provide them with sufficient detail to do something differently!

Over the next 6 weeks, I’d like to follow up on my talk with reminders of the four points I made, coupled with behaviors and tactics that naturally follow from these learnings. This week’s takeaway focuses on patient satisfaction.


Learning #1: Patient satisfaction should not be the goal of a healthcare organization.

The objects and measures of success for a healthcare organization should extend past patient satisfaction and should include patient activation, patient engagement, and patient loyalty. Patient satisfaction may be fleeting and an insufficient driver of lasting effects.

Implications: Engage patients and their families in shared decision making. This may take the form of providing decision aids; involving a variety of personnel to spend time with patients discussing their condition, prognosis, and options; and, using evolving technologies to continue discussions outside of clinical appointment times. Caregiver-patient interactions should focus on identifying patients’ goals, not lecturing patients about the goals identified by guidelines. What is realistic for a given patient? What is attainable? What is unacceptable from a clinical perspective? How can a patient goal (e.g., wanting to attend a loved one’s wedding or graduation) provide inspiration and continued motivation for attaining clinically meaningful goals? Caregivers should document patient goals, distribute them among members of the organization, and ensure that subsequent communication refocuses activities on achieving them.

Reframing discussions of patient satisfaction to patient engagement and understanding what patients and their families experience while under you care helps to move away from objections and stalemates. We’ve all heard “We’ve tried this and that,” “We have a long history of patient satisfaction programs,” and “I’m here to save their ass, now I have to kiss their ass too?” Some organizations have too long of an organizational memory, such that it inhibits the ability to move forward and to effect lasting change. Thus, move the discussion away from patient satisfaction, which has fleeting associations with behavioral changes, to engagement and activation. These are the terms that will connect patient experience initiatives to safety, clinical outcomes, costs, and other metrics to align your efforts with others in your organization.

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