Support, care for health workers to improve patient experience

Guest post by Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., president of The Beryl Institute, a global community of practice focused on patient experience improvement, and founding editor of Patient Experience Journal.

It was hard to engage in a healthcare conversation in recent weeks without hearing about the challenges presented and fear created by the global Ebola crisis. In the United States, the outcomes in Dallas brought home the complicated nature of a global healthcare system driven by protocol and process, and revealed that in striving for perfect outcomes, the healthcare system still built on human beings caring for human beings. This also means, as hard as we might work to avoid it, oversight or errors in healthcare happen.

In many efforts at the heart of patient experience--the integration of quality, safety and service and the connection of engagement, activation and partnership--we drive to reduce errors and/or avoid never events, or conversely, to drive the best in outcomes and ensure always events. Yet at the same time, many of us who advocate for experience (and I must own I have been guilty of it too) expect the ability for near flawless perfection at all times. Yes, we can strive for this, yes it would be ideal if we could achieve it, but we must realize that our humanity makes us vulnerable, variable and at times prone to mistakes. No one wants that to occur in his or her own case and unfortunately we probably still see more unavoidable errors outside of truly human mistakes than we should, but it does cause us to look at the root of issue.

I consistently advocate that patient experience is grounded in an organization's culture, and in that frame, it's through interactions between individuals where experience occurs--be it an interpersonal or a clinical encounter. As much as we need to focus on patient, resident and family needs, we must also be cognizant of those on the front lines and in the support roles who deliver that care or overall experience.

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