A root cause analysis approach to patient problems may improve the overall experience

Patient-centered care
Johns Hopkins Hospital applied the design thinking model to develop a patient coaching program that better addresses the concerns of individual patients.

To find the root cause of patient issues, like missed appointments, providers must drill down into their experiences. One way to address these individual concerns is via a “design thinking” approach, experts suggest.

A hospital using this approach would identify an issue, like no-shows, and then assign a multidisciplinary task force to study it, getting a more complete picture of the patients’ experiences, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review penned by a team from Johns Hopkins. With a more complete view, the task force can then brainstorm solutions and begin piloting potential prototype programs.

Surveys and online reviews may not give the true story of a patient’s living situation and other factors that may impact their healthcare.

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Some hospitals have already found success using the design thinking model, according to the article. For example, Mayo Clinic transformed its prenatal clinic to create a greater sense of community among expectant mothers, a program that ultimately made the new moms feel more informed and empowered. Johns Hopkins Hospital applied design thinking to develop a patient coaching program that better addresses the concerns of individual patients.

The emergency department is a perfect example of an area where design thinking could improve the experience, according to the article. Patients and families often spend long hours waiting for care in the ER, so a design thinking approach could spur changes that make the experience feel safer and more comfortable.

“It’s every healthcare leader’s mission to improve patient experiences,” the authors wrote. “Design thinking is a useful process for doing so, as it requires decision-makers to empathize with patients, think creatively, prototype and continually test solutions to these problems.”

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Research suggests that investing in improvements to patients’ experiences can pay off in clinical quality as well. It has been linked directly to patient safety, and a recent study found that hospitals with higher patient experience scores performed better on certain clinical quality measures.