I am worried that we are having the wrong conversations regarding how to enhance the patient experience.

My concerns compounded after attending three recent patient experience conferences. Most of the workshops or client case studies have relatively the same content and execution as in years past. I think, more than ever, we are teaching to the test (HCAHPS or a patient satisfaction survey) and not really asking the right questions from the right people.

In focus groups, the large clamor from patients is,

We don’t want a monologue from you anymore. Stop talking at us! Involve us! And speak in a language I can understand.

Patients don’t want to be treated anymore. ”Don’t do unto me. Tell me what and why you want to do something to me, and then ask what I think.” Patients are rejecting the typical omniscient command and control hospital atmosphere of “we’re in control of your health and you’ll do as we say.”  The hospital says, “I will tell you what to wear, how long to wait, when to sleep, eat, pee, and what hours you can have visitors in your room.” Patients say, “NO!  You are charging me $600 per night, just for this room – I want to be treated as an individual!  I want to have options. I want you to be flexible and jiggle the system. I want meaningful conversations, not a 10 minute diagnosis and then just walk out of my room. And by the way, it’s my room! Don’t wake me up at 6am and tell me to eat because that is convenient for you and your operation; I never eat that early! And I want a choice on what items I can eat (within my medical diet restrictions).”

Our solutions are old and antiquated. We are scripting and teaching our staff to say specific phrases at certain times. I am fine with that if we are just building a level of consistency with that one team, but the patient does not experience healthcare vertically (within one team). Patients experience healthcare horizontally – with many individuals from many teams. Most breakdowns happen in the handoffs. We cannot create our scripts in a vacuum just to see the result on a month’s patient satisfaction survey. Scripts were developed from the overall story playwright. Everyone needs to first know the ideal story we are trying to tell and live out. Then and only then can we say what our individual lines are. Once we develop our lines, then we need to share them with the producer of the show (the Chief Experience Officer) so they can make sure a) everyone knows their lines, b) the next person in the show builds upon your lines, but does not repeat your lines, so that the audience – your patients – sees this as one seamless experience.  

Currently we do none of this. We are still teaching individual lines to individual players and they do not know the whole story. They only know their individual piece of the show. This builds bigger, stronger silos. This is the huge gap in most patient experience conferences, and thus in most patient experiences.