When we hear about high reliability, it is typically focused on quality and safety rather than about the patient experience. We can apply high reliability principles to improving the patient experience, but one of the first steps to success is setting expectations for consistency.
I love talking to healthcare leaders about their service expectations. During many, if not most, of these high energy conversations, they tell me about their vision for ideal service delivery. Then I ask how consistently that level of service is actually delivered in their organizations. What I hear almost every time is, “It depends.”
What they are saying is that it depends on:
- The department
- The individual
- The time of day
- The day of the week
- The volume
High reliability begins with high expectations
The truth is, the described variability is accepted as a fact of life. If this mindset is allowed to prevail, it will be difficult to establish a consistently positive patient experience. We would never be this accepting of variability around a safety issue, yet shrug off the inconsistencies in how we deliver the patient experience.We would never be this accepting of variability around a safety issue, yet shrug off the inconsistencies in how we deliver the patient experience. Take handwashing as a simple and straight forward example. We would never shrug off consistent handwashing and say things like, “That’s just Mary.” Or “She must have been having a bad day.” Lives depend on consistency in this example. Reputation is at stake when we accept inconsistent service behaviors.
Think about your own attitude toward the patient experience. How can you begin applying high reliability principles to create a more consistent patient experience?