Focusing on Outpatient Services to Improve the Patient Experience: Holy Redeemer Health System (Part 1 of 2)

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GRW-thumb3One of healthcare reform’s goals is to focus provider attention on the entire continuum of care. This is a difficult change to bring about in an industry that has traditionally been fragmented and siloed.

Perhaps this is why most providers think of the patient experience in terms of when the patient is actually in the hospital.

However, as Jacqueline Fellows reports at HealthLeaders Media, the Holy Redeemer Health System, based in Meadowbrook, Penn., began to think about the patient experience beyond the four walls of a hospital room and started focusing on the role its outpatient services could play.

The reasoning behind this, Chris Holt, chief experience officer and vice president of marketing and public affairs at Holy Redeemer, said, was, of course, the changing nature of healthcare. “Healthcare will be delivered in a variety of settings and more and more often in outpatient locations. So ambulatory care is an important part of the future.”

According to Fellows, Holy Redeemer is only one of many healthcare organizations increasingly focused on outpatient care. In fact, the HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey 2013 found healthcare executives have made “growing outpatient care…their top strategy for fueling financial growth over the next five years…,” and Holy Redeemer is counting on improved outpatient care to be “a market differentiator.”

As the system began to research its outpatient services, a consultant firm advised them to think beyond the traditional, beyond customer service, even beyond HCAHPS scores, Fellows writes. “The consultants were talking about stories, dreams, and experience guides, which are metaphors for a component of patient experience. Stories equate to why a patient is coming in to see the doctor; dreams describe the process that Holy Redeemer went through to develop how a patient interacts with staff and the environment; and experience guides are the receptionists or assistants who make sure a patient gets to the correct room.”

In so doing, the imagination of Holt’s team was captured. No longer was patient experience a stagnant concept in a white paper or a vaguely rendered score on a computer screen.

After dividing themselves up into six teams of 12 each, the organization spent six months studying and implementing changes designed to transform the culture of Holy Redeemer profoundly.

It first began with laying a solid foundation. This foundation would be found in a detailed, yet succinct, definition of the patient experience:  “Intentionally crafted interactions that are personal and individual in nature, require participation, and meet unrecognized needs, resulting in a relationship that provides unique value to customers and the organization.”

Their next step was “to go for the wow approach–they wanted to dazzle patients, families, and employees.”

Falling back on the drama angle presented to them by the consultant firm, Holt said Holy Redeemer “developed what is called a story structure to communicate to patients Holy Redeemer’s story, which is ‘a rich, interconnected set of stories from the heritage of our founders to the stories of those we serve and serve with every day.’ The story element is meant to connect with patients on a level that is more human and also communicate that Holy Redeemer is a patient’s partner in health.”

As Holt explained, “Every one of us has a life story we’re writing. I really think this is about changing the nature of the relationship that we have with people. The basis that we have right now as an industry is based on, ‘What healthcare do you need, and how can I serve that up to you?’ I think where all the reform and the trends in the industry are moving us toward is really about helping people be well and live their life to the fullest.”

So far, though, the system had only focused on words, on flowery depictions of wistful concepts. It needed to translate this vision into actionable measures and initiatives.

That’s where the “brand promise” came in. We’ll look at this factor tomorrow.

In the meantime, how could your outpatient services be improved to enhance the patient experience? Have you made adjustments to your outpatient facilities in order to confront organizational lapses in patient experience? What have you learned, and what would you like to see changed or improved even more in the future?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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