There’s lots of talk about patient-centered care. The operative word here is talk. As positive as the term is, and as frequently as it’s thrown around, I find there is still a long way to go before the patient experience reflects truly patient-centered processes, systems and staff.
Not long ago, I was doing a Power of One training session, when one of the participants raised her hand and said, “You expect us to do all these things for patients, but what about us? Patients need to understand how busy we are.” Really? I honestly had to contain myself. Fortunately, what I wanted to say stayed safely in my brain and I was able to carefully choose my words in response. It was my chance to remind her that everything we do and say in healthcare must be with the intention of helping the patient feel safe and comforted. How will telling a patient how busy you are help to achieve that?
Virtually every decision – every system and process within an organization, should be screened with a simple question. Who is this for? That question is just not asked and answered consistently enough. Take for example the doctor who continues to demand exceptions to the standard scheduling templates. When the scheduler is sifting through 30 pages (real example) of exceptions, they are frustrated and often unable to meet the patient’s needs. Or the physician who decides to take a last-minute day of PTO, leaving staff to cancel appointments with 30 patients, many of whom have taken off work, arranged rides and made childcare plans in order to have the appointment?
Systems, policies, processes and attitudes must be created around the patient’s needs. Without it, patient-centeredness is just lip service.