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The Patient Experience is Digital Too

Posted by capcityspeakers on December 12, 2016

by Kristin Baird

When we think of the patient experience, we often think of the many touchpoints during a face-to-face interaction. In today’s world, digital encounters are an important part of the overall experience as well.

This past week, my husband had a battery of tests in follow-up to a physical exam. He was a bit anxious about having the tests, and then having to wait for the results. He was both impressed and relieved to have prompt results delivered to his smartphone through the online portal. He could see the results and where he fell within the normal ranges. But what impressed him the most was that his physician also sent a personal note with a summary of her impressions and next steps – all in layman’s terms. Within 10 minutes of her note, he received a text from Walgreens that his new prescription was ready for pick up.

In this example, the digital experience included imparting information (test results) as well as reassurance and next steps provided through the personal email.

Rewind the clock a few years, and he’d still be waiting for the results that would be delivered via phone call or office visit. The waiting and wondering was stressful for patients and the follow up was often overwhelming for the providers and their staffs.

We are fortunate to be living in a world where we can use our smart phones for everything from ordering pizza to scheduling rides and appointments. In healthcare, smartphones have become the lifeline to information and engagement. My concern is that in some organizations, anything digital is technology that sits within the IT silo, rather than cross pollinating with the patient experience goals and strategies. Let’s make sure we’re talking to each other internally. We have great opportunities to continue making the patient experience more seamless, efficient and enjoyable.

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The Patients Just Don’t Get It (Or Maybe It’s You That Doesn’t Get It)

Posted by capcityspeakers on June 30, 2016

by Kristin Baird

Just the other day, I heard a story from a nursing unit manager that really annoyed me. The manager was asked to follow up on a patient complaint where the patient stated he was disappointed that the entire time he was in the hospital, he never had a bath. Having been an inpatient for four days following a total hip replacement, it seemed like a reasonable expectation to have a bath (or four for that matter), so his complaint seemed justifiable.  The problem was, the manager shifted the blame onto the patient. The first words out of her mouth were, “These patients just don’t get it. We give them a bath-in-a-bag every day.”

There is so much about this single comment that bugs me, but let’s just start with, “They just don’t get it.” The tone implies the patient is wrong and you, the care provider, are right. This type of thinking places you and the patient, in two separate camps; the right and the wrong. One or the other. Secondly, it implies that the patient should know better; again, a condescending posture for the sender.

Whenever I hear the phrase, “They just don’t get it,” I can’t help but think that it’s the sender that doesn’t get it. The comment comes from a posture of superiority and arrogance rather than one of collaboration. What if the nurse manager received the complaint in a spirit of ownership and collaboration? Her response would have been something like, “It sounds like we didn’t do a good job of explaining the bath-in-a-bag. I’ll work on this with my team.”

The other part of this comment that bugs me is the idea that the patient should “get it.” When a patient enters a hospital, it is a foreign land with a foreign language, strange sounds, sights, and smells. This is YOUR world, not theirs. Don’t expect them to just “get it.” It’s up to the caregivers to welcome patients into this strange world, and explain things. The word “bath” in the common vernacular implies a tub filled with water. A bed bath implies a basin of water and a wash cloth. It’s only in today’s healthcare world that a plastic packet filled with moistened paper towels constitutes a bath. So when the patient doesn’t “get it,” simply reposition the lens with which you see the world. Look through the patient’s eyes, then help him understand.

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Take on Your Toughest Opponent

Posted by capcityspeakers on March 9, 2016

by Kristin Baird

For many of us, our toughest opponent isn’t our boss, co-worker, or golf rival. It’s the internal monologue playing inside our heads. The one that plays into the patient experience nearly every moment of the day is the one that says, “I don’t have time.” Saying that over and over to yourself throughout the day adds pressure, making you feel even more harried. Time is one of our most precious resources. True, it’s limited, but we all have the same number of minutes in the day. I have found that, by telling myself over and over, that I don’t have time becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I catch myself, I try to play a new message – I have time for what’s most important.

A few years ago, I was coaching some nurses on behaviors to improve the patient experience. I had suggested that, before leaving a patient’s room they stop and ask if there is anything more that they can do for the patient, adding, “I have time.”

One of the nurses in the group got very upset with me. A night nurse on the med/surge floor, she constantly felt stretched for time. She felt that by my asking her to say this, I was being insensitive to her situation and her needs. I was grateful that she brought up these concerns as it gave me the opportunity to discuss the power of self-talk.

I explained to her that, having been a night nurse myself, I understood how busy they can be. I also shared something I had learned about inner monologue or self-talk. I asked her to take a second before walking into the patient room to take a deep breath and get centered so she could be fully present to engage better. Then do the same thing before leaving the room and asking what else she could do. I encouraged her to give it a three week trial.

At the end of the three weeks she told me that doing this repeatedly actually helped her to feel calmer and more focused on her patients. She reported, “I can’t believe it. I actually feel like I have more time by saying it over and over.” She had conquered her worst enemy with her own thoughts.

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Say Thank You With Purpose

Posted by capcityspeakers on November 23, 2015

by Kristin Baird

From the time we learn to talk, we’re taught to say thank you. In the course of any day we might say it dozens of times for little things, like someone holding an elevator door or serving us in the cafeteria. It’s the polite thing to do. But how often in your life have you said thank you with purpose? What I mean by that is taking the time to reflect on the people who have made a difference in your life in a deep and meaningful way and telling them how they’ve made a difference.

Most people working in healthcare entered their fields because they want to make a difference and yet many go about their days carrying out dozens of acts of kindness without any expectations about receiving accolades. They are becoming part of the patients’ life stories and have no idea they’re making lifelong memories. They may never hear it but their work is carried in the hearts and memories of their patients. What if every person in your organization was suddenly presented with a roster of all the people they had touched and would know how valuable they are and what a difference they are making? There would be such a surge in their connection to purpose that you’d feel the energy shift.

The problem is, we don’t share these stories often enough. We think about how someone touched our lives, but don’t let them know. And that’s a shame.

This past January my mom passed away. She had been an English teacher and directed high school plays and musicals. In the course of her work, she had touch thousands of lives. As people streamed through her visitation and funeral we heard story after story from former students and musical cast members about how she had helped to shape their lives. How she sparked something in them that helped them to see the world differently or believe in themselves. These stories were a wonderful comfort to all of us and affirmed that her memory would be kept alive, not only through us, her children, but through all the people she had influenced.

Mom always had a strong connection to purpose so I’m confident that she knew that she had made a difference, but it meant the world to her when someone from her past would call, visit, or send a letter expressing their gratitude and sharing their stories. She’d tell me about these calls and visits out of the blue and we’d talk about what a gift it was to hear their stories. Their calls, letters, and visits were a validation of the legacy she’d be leaving behind. I often thought that the universe was nudging these former student’s to say thank you while she was still alive so that she could see the fruits of her labor. It was as if they were writing the final chapter for her. She had shared her gifts with her students, and they in turn gave her the gift of their gratitude. The circle was complete.

This is the time of year when we reflect more about our many blessings. There is someone you need to thank. If you can’t do it face-to-face, send a letter or make a call. Don’t just think about it. Do it. You’ll feel more complete and you’ll be making a difference in the life of someone else.

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Leading the Patient Experience Takes Good Communication

Posted by capcityspeakers on September 17, 2015

by Kristin Baird

A few days ago I was talking with a group of leaders from the same organization. I had asked a question about their service recovery tracking tool. Everyone except one person said that they didn’t have one. The single individual who said that they had a tool was the one who had launched it. He told his colleagues, “I sent out a memo.”

This happens all the time. Someone sends out an email and thinks that they have communicated. Well, they did send a memo. The problem is that we are all so bombarded with emails that we often skim past the ones that don’t rise to the top of our priority list.

The value of cascading communication and face-to-face conversation cannot be over stated, especially if you are trying to transform culture and engage people at all levels. If something has the potential for improving the patient experience, let everyone know, but try to use a variety of communication methods and don’t expect that one message will achieve all your communication goals.

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Your Prescription for Inspiration

Posted by capcityspeakers on August 18, 2015

by Kristin Baird, RN, BSN, MHA

We all need to regroup at times to consciously seek a dose of inspiration. People who work in healthcare know how demanding it can be. Whether you are at the bedside caring for patients or working on the periphery, it’s important to know what inspires you and helps you feel connected to purpose and the mission of the organization.

A few weeks ago I had a coaching conversation with an administrator. I could tell that the pressures of her job and the nagging political rifts were taking their toll on her. When I see this, I help them take a step back and get back to what really matters. In this case, I asked her to describe her best day. A day when she knew she was doing work that matters. She was quick to recap how a trip to the NICU always helped her get centered and rejuvenated.

She lit up as she described how those tiny patients, their parents, and dedicated nurses always put her work back into perspective. She was reminded of the organization’s mission and always reconnected to purpose during each trek to the NICU.

Each of us needs to consciously seek inspiration. Working in healthcare requires it. Just as we exercise, rest, and eat a balanced diet to maintain a healthy body, we owe it to ourselves to stay rejuvenated as well. Where do you get your inspiration? Identify it and take it in regular doses.

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