After 15 years as a Studer Group Coach, and even before that in my work with Quint Studer at Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago and Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of organizations and currently work with and lead 75 active coaches across the United States. In our experience, the most common coaching question we receive is, “How do we move performance?”
One of the key ways to improve the patient experience is related to the connection and trust that is created through the caregiver with the patient/family. In 1993 at Holy Cross Hospital, I was asked by Quint Studer, who was the COO at the time, to shadow a high performing Nurse Leader. Our objective was to better understand what she did differently to achieve a higher patient experience.
The Nurse Leader that I followed, Michelle Walsko, went into each patients room every day and rounded with the patient. Her interaction wasn’t long – about 5-10 minutes - and the visit went something like this: “Hi, my name is Michelle Walsko, and I am the Nurse Leader of this unit. My job is to make sure we are taking wonderful care of you.” She went on to say “Let’s talk about how we're doing. How are my nurses doing helping manage your pain?”
What I observed was that Michelle, in her introduction, made a promise and commitment to the patient. In essence, she laid the foundation for the experience the patient would receive. She created a connection with her patient. I noticed how warmly Michelle’s patients received the message that she and her staff were committed to provide them with wonderful care. Patients began to open up and freely discuss how they felt their care was going. This allowed Michelle to initiate service recovery, if needed, to solve problems before they became fires, and to hear outstanding feedback about her staff that she would later use to recognize high performance. “The Promise” created a connection and a trust between patient and caregiver.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure to work with Advocate Sherman Hospital in their Outpatient/Ambulatory Services and noticed that they were practicing AIDET®, Studer Group’s communication framework, very well. What was missing was “The Promise”. We recommended they start the interaction by laying the foundation for the patient. Explain the experience the patient could expect to receive, and state our commitment to provide excellent care. We suggested they use whatever keyword they were most comfortable with (excellent, wonderful, outstanding, or awesome) so the patient knew they were in very caring, loving hands. As a result. Advocate Sherman’s results as of November of 2014 are at the 94th percentile for all Outpatient Services combined.
We have found that making “The Promise” positively impacts patients, family members, and employees. From the patient’s perspective, they receive confirmation that their caregiver is committed to taking wonderful care of them. This helps to reduce their anxiety. From the family’s perspective, they are comforted to know that their loved ones are in good hands. That commitment is exactly what they hope to hear from the caregiver. From the employee’s perspective, stating “The Promise” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and begins to define who the caregiver is and wants to be in their career. It may take some time, but eventually employees start to see how that commitment makes a difference. We find when most caregivers make “The Promise,” their word becomes their bond, and they want to live true to their word.
In my 30-plus years in Healthcare Leadership, whenever I ask employees, leaders, and physicians why they went into healthcare, the answer I most commonly receive is that they wanted to make a difference for patients. They wanted to help people that were going through a tough time in their lives, and their internal mission is aligned to worthwhile work.
After years of review of patient experience results, we often find that most organizations do not perform poorly or provide bad care. When they underperform, it’s likely that they have missed a personal connection with the patient/family. When organizations coached by Studer Group start with “The Promise” and lay the foundation for the care they will provide to their patients, it helps move the organization from good to great with exceptional patient experience results.