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Spring Cleaning for a Better Patient Experience

Posted by Kristin Baird on February 22nd, 2010 • No Comments »

I’m a Midwest gal, and this time of year leaves me hungering for spring. The days are getting a bit longer and the birds are singing again. For me, this always signals a time for spring cleaning. Not the bucket-and-sponge type of spring cleaning (I’ll procrastinate on that for awhile more). No, I’m talking about the purging type. There is something so refreshing about clearing out the clutter to make way for new growth and opportunities.

I use a sort of “triage” method when spring cleaning my closets. I need to get honest with myself about what still works and what has got to go. I can’t let myself hang onto things that were fashionable in a different time but don’t make sense in today’s world. The classics stay, of course, and I give the prime real estate to items I need to access often.

As I was clearing the clutter in my closet, I started thinking about how the same purging triage works in our business lives as well. We often hang onto ways of doing things because they are comfortable for us but don’t always spotlight the best we have to offer. Maybe it’s time to do some spring cleaning in your organization to look at how you do things and consider what still fits and what needs to change.

The recent CEO report from HealthLeaders Media shows that improving the patient experience ranks among the top priorities for 2010. We talk a lot about creating a great patient experience, but are we really ready to clean out the old habits, processes, and attitudes to make way for improvements? Making the necessary changes starts with a shared vision for what you want the experience to be. Then, it takes the commitment to toss out the old ways and start fresh.

In an ideal world, we’d be able to make the transition without any resistance. But let’s face it–most organizations are wrought with sacred cows and habits that can work against some of our best-laid plans. Many of these are engrained in the culture and aren’t revealed until you take steps to change them. Then beware! Let the battles begin. I’ve seen department leaders nearly come to blows trying to protect a paper sign that comes across as rude or threatening when we promise welcoming, compassionate care. I’ve had physicians threaten to quit if they are asked to move post-op conferences with family members into private meeting spaces even though we promise privacy.

The good news is that making the necessary changes doesn’t always cost money for bricks and mortar or FTEs. It does, however, take focus and persistence. My hope is that health leaders will make 2010 the year when we all tidy up the finer points of the patient and visitor encounters to create truly memorable and trust-building patient experiences. The journey starts with taking an honest look at what needs to change and then having the guts to toss out what’s not working. Join our new Patient Experience Boot Camp and make this the year that you make room for habits and systems that will transform culture and shape the patient experience.

Baird Consulting


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