Did you ever run relay races in school? You had to successfully pass the baton off to the kid in front of you and hope you (or they) didn’t drop it. It’s tricky! Your timing had to be just right. And you hesitated as you got closer so your feet wouldn’t falter and collide with the other kid’s feet. It’s a game of skill, for sure.

The Patient Experience is kind of like the wooden baton in a relay race. It’s handed off from touchpoint to touchpoint. The goal, of course, is to have a smooth transition, or what we call a “warm handover or handoff.”

How The Patient Experience is Whittled

But when the patient experience falters, instead of being passed along intact, the baton gets whittled down. What’s worse, is that we often don’t even realize it’s happening.

Put yourself in the patient’s shoes and feel their frustration when they discover:

They can’t find a parking spot … Whittled.
The signs are confusing … Whittled.
A hospital volunteer on a personal phone call … Whittled.
They can’t find the office or exam room … Whittled.
There are dirty plates and silverware in the hospital cafeteria … Whittled.

In every interaction and at every touch point of the patient experience, we’re either whittling away or we’re passing the baton intact to another member of the care team.

When we think about the patient experience, we often focus on the caregiver at the bedside or in the exam room.

But it’s important to remember that much of the patient experience has been influenced even before patients ever see a clinician.

In fact, prior to seeing their doctor or a nurse, patients will have likely seen or interacted with many people: the parking attendant, a security guard, the volunteer at the main entrance, the housekeeper cleaning the lobby restrooms, the gift shop attendant, the front desk registration, the billing office, etc.

One of the best ways to ensure the baton of patient experience is passed successfully from one team member to the next is to flip the lens and see things through the eyes, ears, and nose of the patient.

Drive through your parking lot. Walk your hallways. Eat in your cafeteria. Ride a gurney or a wheelchair. Do whatever you can to put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Figure out what’s working well and fix the things that need fixing.

If you do this at every touchpoint along the patient experience journey, you’ll begin to arm your care team with the tools to create warm handoffs and prevent the patient experience baton from being whittled.