Many Small Changes Can Make A Big Difference

Premier Pulse     February 2022

Kanagy_HS_350x350By Scott Kanagy, DO, chief medical officer, Upper Valley Medical Center

What if every Premier Health employee committed to do one thing differently every day to improve the patient experience for those who entrust us with their care? What a difference this would make for those we care for and for Premier Health as a health care organization. I understand many will ask, “What do I do that makes a difference in a patient’s care?” Or think, “I am too busy to change anything I do” or “My one small change will not make any difference.”

But the truth is – each one of us can make a difference, and we have an obligation as a health care system to rise to the challenge of asking ourselves what we can do in our roles to improve the patient experience. No matter what our role is in the hospital, office, or wherever we serve, we all can change one thing we do every day to improve our interactions with patients.

Perhaps you might pause to ask a patient, “What is your greatest concern?” or simply aim to listen more than talk. You could also try slowing down or talking directly to a patient rather than their adult child. Maybe a nonclinical employee takes a moment to reassure a patient that the clinical team is going to give them great care, or a clinical provider acknowledges to a patient that an ancillary service is doing a great job.

Ensuring that we respect the privacy of a patient who is vulnerable is so simple but often overlooked in our busy, high-stress days as health care providers. Providing empathetic care, especially when a patient is at their most vulnerable state, is always the right thing to do.

I wish the only reason to do this was because it was the right thing to do for others. However, as we all know, reimbursement is now tied to this. HCAHPS patient satisfaction scores are tied to reimbursement. No matter how you feel about this, the right thing to do for patients is to strive to treat everyone as we would want our family members treated. Living by and practicing this simple message makes everything clearer.

We must change our thought process from believing that we are doing our patients a favor by caring for them to realizing that we are privileged they have turned to us for their care. If you really think about it, they have given us a great honor. They entrust their lives to us, and is that not the very reason we all decided to devote our lives to medicine in the first place?

I ask everyone to take the time to read a short Harvard Business Review article online titled “What Putting Patients First Really Looks Like” and ask yourself what one thing could you change every day to improve the patient experience of those you encounter, as well as encourage others to do the same.

It is time for us to truly put our patients' needs at the center of everything we do.

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