This past week I spent several days at Mayo Clinic not as a consultant, speaker, or mystery shopper, but as a concerned family member. Being on the other side of the family experience is a bit like being sent back to boot camp. It reminds me how important it is that we consistently deliver on the fundamentals of a great patient and family experience. One of those fundamentals is to keep the family informed.
On Tuesday my sister underwent a 12 hour surgery. I had been told that it would be at least six hours and possibly up to eight. Needless to say, it was a long day. But I must say that I always felt like I was in the loop. Of course they have the surgical board to show the progress from pre-op to surgery and recovery, but that just shows migration and doesn’t provide real information about what is going on inside the OR. That’s what I needed. And they delivered.
Just after my sister was taken down at 7:00 AM, I was introduced to Lori, a liaison who provided updates every two hours. She was able to tell me what was happening in surgery and give me reassurance that she was remaining stable. There was a also a few handoffs between various surgeons during the long day, and each one met with me as he completed his portion to give me an update on what had been accomplished so far. This was extremely comforting because, although the liaison provided timely reports, by coming face-to-face with me, the surgeons gave me the chance to ask questions. Face time always gives an added layer of reassurance. I needed that.
The other thing that they did very well was to welcome my interaction with the unit nurses if I had questions about her progress. They have a great system in place for family to sign in and out if we leave the waiting area. I’ve seen this many times before, but the nurses’ interaction with me as I signed in and out always made me feel welcome and as if they were looking out for me.
When Elizabeth was delivered to the ICU at 11:00 PM, the staff encouraged me to interact with her briefly so that she knew I was there, but explained I needed to step out while they cared for her and transitioned her to the unit.
I think about how my day would have been if I had not been informed throughout the process. It would have been torture. This experience reminded me that the patient and family experience isn’t just about the clinical outcomes. Your patients and families make their decisions and talk about how you made them FEEL during their encounters with you and your organization. What would your patients say about your organization’s processes for keeping them informed? Remember, keeping family well informed won’t happen by chance. It must happen by design. It starts with a commitment followed by a process and refined by people who care.