Did you invite the patient to the party?

Posted by Kristin Baird on March 17th, 2012 • No Comments »

I am a strong advocate for patient- and family-centered care, but for most healthcare organizations it’s a work in progress. If I sound cynical it’s only because I am so passionate about the patient and family experience and stick my neck out and challenge the status quo when I see processes, systems or attitudes that are misaligned with that quest. If you are going to promise patient and family-centered care, then please filter the entire experience through their eyes.

I was recently visiting a hospital during a patient experience consulting project. They had just completed an impressive renovation to the tune of $70 million and, although the architecture was as impressive as a 5-star hotel, the experience was more like the cattle call approach used in the DMV. When considering the patient and family experience, there are 3 “buckets” in which impressions fall. These include: people, process and place. Here are just a few examples from our assessment:

Directly under a beautiful waiting room poster promising patient- and family-centered care, we witnessed surgeons giving a families updates in the presence of other visitors. In the ER we saw entire exams conducted in the hallway right in front of other patients. In both cases, these were provider or organization-centered, not patient and family-centered.

The family was not informed until the night before what time their infant’s surgery would take place. The young parents had limited resources for transportation and this process made it very difficult for them to make the necessary arrangements. Is this scheduling process made with the patient or family in mind? I doubt it. My guess it has more to do with the surgeon and the OR schedule.

The employee-only cafeteria was located next to the family waiting area outside surgery. The smells were enticing. But when a father, who was waiting for his son in surgery tried to duck into the cafeteria for a quick bite, he was stopped by a security guard who directed him to a restaurant in the opposite end of the building. Families waiting outside surgery don’t want to leave their post for fear of missing an update. Patient- and family-centered? No.

My point is this: Everything about the patient and family experience must be seen through their eyes. Question every process, system, policy and facility change to make sure that you are delivering on your promise. Invite patients and families into the discussion early and often. You’ll see things in a whole new light.

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Baird Consulting

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