As the medical industry is shifting from fee-for-service to fee-for-value, emphasis on the patient experience has seen a significant rise among health care providers. Reimbursements and penalties will soon be based almost entirely on the quality of care. According to the 2015 Physician’s Index report, 50 percent of providers believe their compensation will be paid through value-based payment models in the next 10 years.
The Patient Experience
Quality medical care can no longer be defined solely by clinical outcomes – the patient’s perception is now a significant factor. This highlights the need for the patient experience to be positively managed throughout the care process. As a result, many healthcare executives indicate the patient experience is among their top three priorities in 2017.
The challenge is that there is an overwhelming number of solutions available from a variety of vendors all calling on practices claiming to have the greatest system, most current technology or advanced protocol to manage the quality of the patient experience.
But, the reality is the quality of the patient experience will never exceed the quality of the people providing it. You can design, create and build the best processes and protocols, but it is the people that make them a reality. Consequently, providers across the continuum of care are paying attention to how each patient perceives the care they received from every person who comes in contact with the patient.
At the end of the visit the patient wants to feel a connection to the provider and the staff. When providers and staff can demonstrate a sincere connection with a patient, especially when the patient is frustrated or confused, they feel heard and validated. This is not always easy in a very busy practice or in a hectic environment when it takes all the focus and commitment we have just to complete our assigned tasks or duties.
So the question is, how do you build a team of people in which every person views themselves as a resource to the patient, no matter their role or position, no matter at which point they connect with the patient throughout the care process, and no matter the situation.
The three essential qualities, or skills, necessary to connect with a patient
Words don’t communicate intent. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. And physiology conveys more of what you think or feel than anything you say.
These three elements of communication (words, voice qualities and physiology) must be aligned to be 100 percent effective in your communication.
Critical thinking requires evaluating and improving your own thought processes to engage in reflective and independent thinking. There is no right or wrong way to approach any situation, but depending on the questions you ask yourself you will focus on the situation from a different perspective. When you ask the question differently you look for answers in different places.
Effective questions lead to better problem solving abilities when there is no ONE right answer.
All communication is a transfer of emotion. When a provider or patient care specialist can demonstrate sincere empathy for a patient, especially when the patient is frustrated or confused, they feel heard and validated. Being emotionally intelligent means recognizing one’s own emotions and attuning to the patients verbal and nonverbal emotional messages. The psychology of managing emotions (yours and the patient’s), even while the pressure of your day is upon you, will make you more resourceful in making a connection with the patient.
Focusing on technology, processes and protocols will remain important for any practice to create an environment in which to foster patient engagement. But keep in mind the patient experience is more highly regarded based on the connection with the people within the organization. Every person who comes in contact with the patient is a resource capable of being finely tuned. Focus on giving those people the training and resources necessary to maximize the patient experience.