How to deliver a world-class patient experience

In a very recent article, Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, wrote: "Not all hospitals and medical centers can afford the most modern facilities or advanced technology. However, we can all afford to listen to our patients, hear their stories and empathize with their hopes and fears."

Be a World-Class Service Provider

Like Cosgrove, Dr. Bryan Williams emphasized the critical importance of relationship and interaction during his keynote address "Delivering World Class Service: What Healthcare Can Learn from Hospitality" at The Beryl Institute's Patient Experience Conference earlier this month.

Williams suggested that for a hospital "to be a world-class service provider, it must engage the patient and consistently exceed patient expectations." (Engagement occurs at the emotional level and consistency happens every--and not "part"--time.)


Follow the Double Platinum Rule

Williams emphasized the key difference between "meeting" and "exceeding" expectations: "Exceeding expectations is about creating a memorable moment" and requires anticipating needs that goes beyond the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do to you"). "It's not what YOU want to give the patient that matters," he said. In fact, anticipating needs even surpasses the Platinum Rule ("Do unto others as they would like, wish or desire").

Exceeding expectations, Williams described, demands the Double Platinum Rule--"Treat others how they don't even KNOW they want to be treated YET!" Engaging patients and their family members at this level necessitates an understanding of their deeper emotional, spiritual and personal needs at the many and various service touch points along the continuum of care.

Engage Me

"If you don't have people who know how to engage your (patients)" with a deep emotional connection, Williams noted, "nothing else--equipment, technology, a shiny new lobby, etc.--matters!"

What patients and their family members desire but may not always be able to articulate include some of the following sentiments shown in the brief video titled "Engage Me":

  • Make me feel special
  • Make me feel included
  • Make me feel valued
  • Make me feel appreciated
  • Tell me that you are happy to see me
  • Tell me that you are happy to serve me
  • Welcome me as if I were a guest in your own home
  • Tell me about the service that I am about to receive
  • Thank me for choosing you
  • Tell me it was a pleasure to serve me

Make Sure They Know You Care

Williams challenged participants: "If you want to enhance the patient experience, our staff needs to communicate that it is 'a pleasure' and 'an honor' to serve you."

During Williams' keynote, someone asked, "How do I go about asking busy nurses to do one more thing?" To that, Williams said, "Whether five minutes or five seconds, make sure the person you're with knows you care."

(That's great advice for any relationship--with patients, a patient's family member, peers and/or direct reports, those senior to us, our friends and own family members and et al.)

Doug Della Pietra is the director of Customer Services and Volunteers for Rochester General Hospital in New York, where he co-chairs the hospital's Patient Experience Team, in addition to responsibilities for an intentionally-designedpatient- and family-centered volunteer program and front-line First & Last Impression initiatives. Follow Doug@DougDellaPietra on Twitter.