Shadow Coaches Improve the Patient Experience

Posted by Kristin Baird

An aspiring athlete can read dozens of books and watch hundreds of videos on great basketball techniques, but chances are good that will have minimal effect. Unless they, 1) play an actual game with others, and 2) get feedback and coaching to apply the techniques. The same applies to physician shadow coaching. Many physicians have learned techniques for enhancing the patient experience but may still miss subtle opportunities that will reap huge rewards.

One of the best ways to gain insights into the patient experience is through shadowing and coaching. Shadow/coaching is effective in many training situations but I find it invaluable to clinicians, including physicians, who interact with patients. This process includes two key elements:

• Shadowing – basically following someone as they perform their job and making observations. The shadow can effectively pick up on both the objective and subjective nuances of a physician/patient encounter.
• Coaching – fostering learning, transformation and growth by giving feedback.

Shadowing and Coaching

By combining the elements of shadowing and coaching you can identify, and build on, strengths while spotting opportunities for improvement.

You may think that physicians are likely to be averse to anyone—particularly a non-physician—monitoring and commenting on their practice behaviors – the opposite is true. Physicians are, generally, quite eager to hone their patient interaction skills. Physicians are not only are they well aware of the implications of HCAHPS and CGCAHPS. They are also aware that these relationships have a significant impact on patient compliance, clinical outcomes and reputation.

Most physicians believe that they are providing good patient service. Sometimes, though, the numbers may indicate otherwise and this is where coaching can be useful. Physicians may not even be aware of subtle things that they are doing—or not doing—that affect patient perceptions.

I was recently shadowing a hospitalist who was a competent clinician, but had lousy satisfaction scores. After observing his first encounter of the day, I pointed out that he never addressed the patient by her name. In other encounters I picked up that he didn’t always introduce himself or, especially when he was feeling rushed, would use medical terms that I’m sure the patient didn’t understand. That kind of feedback was very helpful to him. By giving this feedback during rounds, he was able to begin applying new techniques immediately and see the impact of his efforts.
Most of us do better with some feedback. Shadow/coaching is a great way to support your providers in reaching their full potential.

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