Enhancing the patient experience.
Because health can be overwhelming and scary, it’s nice to know we can do something to make it just a little easier.
And that is a key factor to improving patient experience.
We can create tools and deliver services, but if we’re not starting with a base understanding of how patients may feel, what they may need, what they could be going through… we’re never going to be successful.
“I believe that the answer lies with empathy. What’s unique about this part of the Triple Aim is that many of the answers are within us. Gaining empathy with our patients requires us to ask questions of them and also to ask questions of ourselves. It requires us to invoke ancient methods of learning and thinking, like walking in another’s shoes for a day or using the Golden Rule. Experience doesn’t lend itself to being taught by PowerPoint. It must be lived and channeled back and out through our emotional selves as empathy.”
To first understand how to develop empathy for the patient experience, Kealey suggests learning from patients themselves through simple listening and observation.
He suggests methods such as film and focus groups to learn from patients, better understand their experience, and adjust how we do things in the health industry.
Additionally, beyond learning directly from patients, Kealey argues one of the most effective tactics in gaining empathy for patients is to be one yourself.
“I think any of us who have been a patient in the hospital, or accompanied a loved one, comes out frustrated that the healthcare system is so convoluted and lacking in clarity for patients. Then there is often a sense of renewal, hopefully, followed by evangelism to spread their newfound empathy to others in the system.”
So what can we do about it?
So much of our time is spent on the cost of care and how to increase the efficiency of the care process – and rightfully so.
Similarly, we tend to focus largely on how we can better educate patients so that they can be more active in their care – and that is just as crucial.
But are we giving proper attention to our own education? The education we receive from patients so that we can understand them and know them? To understand what causes tension, anxiety, or confusion?
If we’re not starting with empathy, we can’t begin to understand how patients interact with our health care system.
And, without understanding what it’s like to be a patient, we can’t expect to fully improve the patient experience.
As patients learn from us, we should be learning from patients.
The way to better quality care doesn’t always lie with technology or delivery mechanisms.
Sometimes it’s much simpler.
Sometimes, the answer to improving health care is simply utilizing one another.