One Question Improves Your Patient Experience

Last week, I joined my daughter on a business trip to take care of her three children while she conducted a two-day workshop in Atlanta. What I didn’t realize when we departed, is that the trip would turn into a valuable lesson on how to improve patient experience. On our first day there, she woke in terrible pain with acute appendicitis. Needless to say, she needed emergency surgery.  

Planning for the Optimum Experience

I hand-picked an Atlanta hospital I felt would be best based on quality scores and personal knowledge of their leaders. It was a good choice overall, but one thing was clearly missing. Not one person asked what was most important to her. Had they asked this question, they would have learned that she was 1000 miles from home and had to leave her two young children with their teen brother in a hotel while we sought care. Her anxiety over this was gnawing at her.

Stress and anxiety impede recovery. If we are truly patient-centered, the focus needs to be on what is most important to the patient. While I wouldn’t expect the staff to send Mary Poppins to our hotel room, they could at least empathize and reassure her if they knew what was going on. They may have even shared some local resources that would be helpful. I, too, was stressed over this. I wanted to be with my daughter while she was in crisis, but I knew needed to be at the hotel with the children.

One Question to Improve Patient Experience

At the time of admission, ask patients, “What is most important to you?” Had anyone asked my daughter she would have said, “To get me back to my children.” This would have led to more information to understand her unique situation and offer some support – like a phone charger. Her phone went dead within hours of admission, further cutting her off from her children until I could return with a charger.

This experience reminded me of a time when I was shadowing/coaching a hospitalist. He did a history on a woman during an emergency admission. He asked all the appropriate questions and learned the patient had had three C-sections, the most recent being 8 months earlier. This information was treated as just a part of her surgical history. It never dawned on him that, because C-sections result in babies, there was an opportunity to ask questions about support at home. After all, based on the dates of her C-sections she had an 8-month-old baby, a two-year-old, and a five-year-old. I would have wanted to know:

  • If she was still breastfeeding. We could supply a pump from OB.
  • If she had support at home with childcare – Perhaps social workers could offer support services or at least make phone calls.

He was stunned at how he had missed a glaringly obvious cue about that patient and told me, “I will never look at obstetrical history the same again.”

My advice? Just ask.

Consider the patient experience at your organization. Are you asking all the right questions? Contact us today to learn how we can create lasting changed that improve the patient experience. Set up a free 30-minute consult today.

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