The “patient experience” has become a hot topic among health care providers. Why did it take so long? This initiative seems similar to the “patient focused” health care efforts which have been talked about for some time. Hasn’t it always been about the patient and their experience? Or more appropriately shouldn’t it have been always been about the patient and their experience?
An experience is a global perception of an event. There are usually both objective and subjective components that shape the global experience. The objective component of the health care experience is the provision of evidence based care which is now down to the molecular level. Sterile, complicated, cold science. It is the most important aspect of the health care experience and falling short here can not be made up elsewhere (see: “It’s Whats at the End of the Patient Experience that Matters Most“). The subjective component of health care is comprised of all the factors that humanize the process. It is a reflection of the culture of human interaction that exists at a health care entity. Physicians obviously must be in charge of the objective component of the health care experience. While there are many individuals that are now actively involved in the subjective component of the health care experience HCR believes that physicians are in fact the best to lead this aspect of health care as well. The culture that is the foundation for the patient experience must “trickle down” from the top.
When applied to economies the concept that wealth at the top will “trickle” down to others below has not been shown to be an effective strategy. However, in the field of human anthropology the concept that behavior patterns start at the top is well established. Leaders (and yes physicians should lead every aspect of health care) can shape behaviors as role models. It has been documented that people identify and attempt to emulate those who they believe are good role models. So an enthusiastic medical staff that values evidence based health care and realizes the importance of treating patients, colleagues and staff with respect is the single greatest step toward the perfect patient experience. In fact it is an absolute necessity.
Redesigning the profession of Medicine to create a culture that optimizes the patient experience won’t be an easy task. An overwhelming majority of physicians don’t enjoy their profession anymore and project this both consciously and subconsciously to all those around them. It has become a constant struggle for them for many reasons. They are burdened with an ever-increasing amount of bureaucracy little of which has been demonstrated to positively affect patient care. There also seems to be an ongoing and worsening adversarial relationship between providers and administrators despite an outward message of alignment. Physicians need to be empowered. The hours spent on paperwork (or computer work) need to be minimized. They need to be able to refocus all of their attention on mastering evidence based guidelines. They need to work in a non-contentious and non-rushed environment so they worry only about the care they deliver. They need to be able to recognize the importance of every colleague and team member and contribute to a positive work environment so that everyone can always put the patient’s needs first.
The nay-sayers will protest that all of these actions designed to make the practice of Medicine better for physicians will have no benefit to patient care. However the enlightened will realize that the path to the ultimate patient experience is in fact a redesign of the profession of Medicine. The benefits will trickle through colleagues, staff and ultimately to the patient.