• To many physicians and nurses, their hospital’s effort to create a better patient experience seems to introduce a tidal wave of change and inconvenience.  While there are some valid concerns, there are probably more misperceptions and misunderstandings.  Let us examine a few common ones. The practice of medicine is being impeded by the emphasis on providing an enjoyable hospital stay.  The answer to this argument is a simple one.  The primary purpose of a hospital will always remain to heal illness or injury.  That is why patients have come there.  But healing takes place both physically and mentally.  It is not enough for doctors to serve as physical “mechanics”.  It is equally important to heal the psyche which may be disturbed or unsettled by an unknown physical condition.  Comforting communication techniques are the best way to accomplish this. Already excessive caregiver workloads will only be made worse.  This is a valid concern in many medical institutions.  That is why hospital leaders must make a thorough examination of existing operational systems.  As an example, a solution might lead to redeployment of existing personnel, and even a staff addition or two, which then can be supplemented with a change to a facility’s layout allowing a better and more relaxing flow of patients.  Enhanced attempts to relieve a patient’s pain will lead to increases in prescribed opiate medications.  Using this tactic as a solution to improve a patient’s “experience” can lead to potentially dangerous results.  A physician always must prescribe the appropriate medication for a patient given that person’s well-documented condition and history.  Try an effectively communicated explanation of why certain medication is being administered and what to expect.  Sometimes non-narcotic medications remain the best solution. Caregivers must be scripted to communicate with patients.  Not so.  Instead, they must be trained in this process.  Every individual who comes into contact with the patient must use his or her own words and personality to do the excellent job required.  This may require learning a different behavior if warm empathy is not a natural personal quality of the caregiver, but an effective training program can show appropriate methods and what the end result must be. The above discussion deals with some, but not all, concerns expressed by physicians and nurses.  And it is important to remember that these individuals cannot operate in a vacuum by ignoring their hospital’s philosophical direction toward a better patient experience.  Consequently hospital leaders must provide the tools to allow caregivers to succeed.            

    Dr. Doug Finefrock is a leading national specialist in improving the Patient Experience and HCAHPS scores.  His Patient SET™ Program "Satisfaction Every Time" with The Sullivan Group includes physician CME and nursing CE online video courses that provide scalable communication training for healthcare workers.