Policies and Procedures vs Compassion

Every organization needs policies and procedures to ensure high-quality, safe care. Yet, policies can get in the way of being reasonable if we aren’t careful. When to follow, and when not to follow, policies can be difficult, especially when trying to balance patient experience.  

Applying Policies and Procedures in the Real World

Recently, we were working with an organization that promotes human-centered care. During a focus group, employees expressed that strict adherence to policy diminishes patient-centered experiences. They shared a story of a mother and child who traveled two hours for an appointment for the child. They arrived ten minutes late, with the mother harried, carrying a distraught toddler. The policy is to turn away patients who are ten minutes late. The staff felt torn as they could see the mother’s frustration and stress at being late, but the physician insisted she must be rescheduled.

In telling the story, the staff also noted that the physician had canceled appointments before and after this child’s scheduled visit. His afternoon was wide open, yet he insisted that the staff turn them away because that was the policy. He said, “We need to set boundaries or they will walk all over us.”

Adding a Dose of Compassion

This is where staff feels caught between policy and compassion for people in real-life situations. With a packed schedule, it may be reasonable to ask a late patient to wait, but should they be turned away? Empowering your staff with soft skills for patient experience and a framework to determine when to follow (or not follow) policies can reap big rewards. 

What is reasonable in this situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Get a firsthand look at how policies and procedures affect patient experience at your organization with medical mystery shopping. More than just a survey, mystery shopping sends trained observers for medical services. The type of mystery shopping (also known as secret shopping) conducted depends on the service line being assessed and what service problems you are trying to solve. We have methods applied in inpatient and outpatient settings that can ultimately improve HCAHPS scores. Contact us today at (866) 686-7672 or info@baird-group.com to learn more. 

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