proactive anticipationThere’s a tool I’ve been working on and refining for years that I’d like to share with you. In speeches and workshops, I talk a lot about a concept I call “Proactive Anticipation” – which means anticipating a person’s needs before they ask. We all know the Florence Nightingale quote about how anxiety, apprehension and fear of surprise do more harm than any physical ailment. So the challenge now is how do we proactively address the elephant in the room before it has the chance to do harm to patients and their patient experience?

I also refer to it as “putting the worry in the room” because from the patient or family member’s perspective, worry is a very real factor in virtually every aspect of the patient experience.

Let’s say you walk into a patient’s room and they have a look of fear on their face because they’re getting ready for surgery.

You could put the worry in the room before they do by saying something like, Good morning Mrs Poore, and Happy Tuesday. You know, many people are worried before a surgical procedure like yours, and that’s understandable, but the good news is you don’t need to worry. Dr. Johnson has done this same procedure for many years and she’s the best! You’re in great hands. Plus, I’ll be in the operating room with you, right by your side every step of the way. Do you have any questions or concerns that I can address now to help ease your mind?

Or another patient scenario:

Good evening, Mrs Johnson. Tomorrow is your ‘go home day.’  I know you’ve been here quite a few days and you may have some concerns. I’ve cared for many patients who get a little nervous about going home after a surgery like yours because they’re not quite sure how to take care of themselves once they get home. Not to worry! When your husband arrives tomorrow, we’ll go over everything with both of you and we’ll answer any questions you might have. We know you may have questions when you get home so we’ll also give you and your husband our contact information so you can reach us. Our case manager, Karla will also be here. She’ll be calling you each day to check in and make sure the visiting nurse is taking care of everything we discussed. Can I address any questions or concerns you have now to make sure you have a restful night sleep?

Proactive anticipation also works for new employees:

Hi Joe! I know what you’re probably thinking. As a new employee, how am I ever going to remember all this information today? Please don’t worry, our job is to set you up for success! Tomorrow, when you come to work, you’ll be assigned a preceptor or “onboarding buddy.” They’ll be your mentor for the next two weeks and they’ll show you how what all of this new information looks like in your specific department. They’ll also be there to answer any questions as you adjust to your new position.

Proactive communication – or putting the worry in the room – is an easy tool that anyone on the care team can use to help make the experience better for patients, family members, or employees.

The bottom line is, world-class healthcare providers do two things better than their competition: they deliver clinical care with expertise and efficiency and they do it in a way that engages and involves patients and family members to make them feel good about their experience. Proactive anticipation is a great way to make an intentional connection with patients, family members, and one another because it helps mitigate worry and anxiety while building trust, reassurance and peace of mind.