Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust

In his blog, “Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust,” Bruce Temkin writes about a critical differentiating factor, namely, empathy — one’s ability to feel, understand and appreciate the experience of another. Because of the acute vulnerability associated with the majority of patient conditions and situations in healthcare, emotional intelligence of a hospital’s culture and its caregivers to perceive, reflect on and adjust to the felt-experiences of patients and their family members is essential. Why? Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Creating a signature experience for our patients and their families at its most fundamental and basic level involves understanding how a patient and/or family member feels, examining our actions and how they affect the other and quickly and effectively making the necessary changes so as to improve how the patient/family member feels.

Experience Matters

Most people have an innate ability to be empathetic, but organizations tend to dampen this natural instinct. While a typical customer interaction cuts across many functional groups (a single purchase, for instance, may include contact with decisions by product management, sales, marketing, accounts payable, and legal organizations), companies push employees to stay focused on their functional areas. This myopic view is often reinforced by incentives focused on narrow domains, which creates a perceived chasm between customer empathy and employee success.

After examining much of the academic, medical, and business research on the topic of empathy, we developed a simple model for enhancing empathy that we call Perceive-Reflect-Adjust:

  • Perceive: Understand how someone else feels
  • Reflect: Examine how your actions affect those feelings
  • Adjust: Make changes to improve how someone else feels

P-R-A is a helpful model to follow for triggering individual empathy, but how can organizations apply…

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Reprise: The Value of Patients’ Handwritten Comments on HCAHPS Surveys

Quantitative data used to gauge patient satisfaction is and has been the primary focus of healthcare systems.

In a recent study entitled “The Value of Patients’ Handwritten Comments on HCAHPS Surveys,” researchers make the case for the importance of qualitative data such as patient written comments that can add significant insight into the quality and nature of the patient experience of care and service.

For instance, the study’s authors share the following example to evidence how patient comments can shed light on the rationale behind a patient’s selection on a survey: “…One respondent in our study checked two answers to HCAHPS Question 2 (During this hospital stay, how often did nurses listen carefully to you?) and wrote the following explanation: DayNever; NightAlways. The HCAHPS scoring protocol calls for this patient’s response to be discarded and coded as missing data because the patient gave two answers to the same question (CMS, 2012). However, the patient’s response is genuine and offers an important insight, illustrating what Pavlou and Dimoka (2006, 398) term fine-grained information, which cannot be captured by numerical ratings, as the patient intended to give credit to the nurses who listened carefully and criticize those who did not.”

The authors concluded in their study that “the results show that patients’ anecdotal comments add to the prediction of overall hospital rating with and intention to recommend the hospital beyond the HCAHPS composite measures. This finding is consistent with the notion that ( 1 ) anecdotal feedback contains information that numerical ratings do not capture and (2) rating scales do not completely assess people’s experiences (Pavlou & Dimoka, 2006).” Ultimately, “…quantitative HCAHPS ratings understate the feelings of people who choose to report negative experiences and indicate that they are more dissatisfied than their responses to individual HCAHPS questions would indicate.”

To read the entire study, click here.

Patient Experience Versus Satisfaction: What is the Difference?

Paul Roemer describes the difference between “patient experience” and “patient satisfaction” in this blog. My concise explanation of the difference — and there is definitely a difference! — is that “patient satisfaction” is the rating a patient gives their experience based on how well their expectations were “satisfied” (met).

Pale Rhino Consulting

Think about the answer to this question, how many nights have you spent in a hotel in the last decade?  For most of us the answer is more than one hundred.  How many nights have you spent in a hospital in the last decade?  For most of us the answer is probably between none and ten.  So then, when you go somewhere to spend the night and have your meals delivered, from which organization do your expectations about being satisfied most likely come?

Patient, customer. Hospital, hotel. Tomato, ta-mah-tow.  For those who want to argue that there are no similarities feel free to continue to do so.  For the rest of us let us look at how to improve patient satisfaction.

A few days ago I spoke with a hospital CEO about his efforts to improve the patient experience and about patient satisfaction.  He said that for years his…

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Reprise: Is Anyone Listening? A quick service tale

Blanchard LeaderChat

bigstock-Close-up-of-female-doctor-usin-46247311Walking out to the supermarket with a bag in each hand, I felt “pain” as I took a step. It was like a snap in my foot and PAIN, like a pinch – ouch! I got to the car and drove home.  My foot was swollen and it hurt–especially if I put any weight on it. As soon as I put the groceries away, I called and got an appointment with the Physician’s Assistant at my doctor’s office.

(A little bit about my doctor – looking at the photo collages on her office walls, you could have cut her face out and put mine in. We had lived such similar lives – I could have matched her photo for photo.  We were close in age, both first born, and I felt very connected with her. She was a good listener – I thought…)

Back to the pain in my foot…

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Prioritizing Patient Experience Operational Standards Just as Important as its Definition

The Beryl Institute’s latest benchmarking study “The State of Patient Experience in American Hospital 2013: Positive Trends and Opportunities for the Future” shows that more and more healthcare organizations have a formal definition of  “patient experience.” In 2013, 45% of respondents indicated that their organization had a formal definition compared to 27% just 2 years ago. Interestingly, in 2011, 15% of respondents implied that they didn’t know whether their organization had a formal definition or not; in the latest study, not one respondent checked “Don’t Know,” which to me signals a clear awareness on the part of those that participated in the survey of what defining patient experience means and entails.

Jason Wolf, President of The Beryl Institute, emphasized the significance of defining the patient experience in this way:

Simply stated, without definition an organization has little to no basis for action.

Too frequently, in the minds of hospital executives and leaders, “patient experience” equates to “service,” “patient satisfaction,” or “service excellence.” Yet, there are other critical elements of the patient experience such as safety, quality, etc.

In my latest Hospital Impact blog, I suggest that having “a prioritized operational framework for the patient experience that would effectively guide the beliefs, behavior and ultimate decision” of caregivers and healthcare leaders is essential.  In fact, I took the following stand:

I disagree with the conclusion that the Forbes’ article title (“Why Rating Your Doctor Is Bad For Your Health“) suggests, namely, that “rating your doctor is bad for your health.” Rating physicians, hospitals, medical practices, surgical centers, etc. is not the fundamental issue; competing and incorrectly prioritized operational standards are bad for the health of our patients.

Prioritizing patient experience operational standards is just as important as its definition of patient experience. Both Disney and the Cleveland Clinic have defined “experience” as well as created a prioritized an operational framework to guide their “guests” and “caregivers,” respectively. To see their frameworks: read Prioritize operational standards for patient experience success

Introducing Mindfulness in Healthcare Organizations

Inspired by Daniel Goleman’s July 28, 2013 article “Introducing Mindfulness in Organizations,” I posted the following discussion question on several LinkedIn Groups: “…I am making an assumption that introducing mindfulness in hospitals and healthcare organizations is important and of interest. I do believe it is critically important for person-centered (staff, physician, leader and patient/family) care. Do you agree? If so, what are some effective ways of introducing mindfulness in healthcare?”

Immediately after posting the discussion question, I found a partial answer in Louise Altman’s July 25, 2013 blog “Mindfulness is a Whole Body Experience.” Altman writes:

Dr. Daniel Beal co-author of a Rice University study on emotional suppression in the workplace comments, ‘Our study shows that emotional suppression takes a toll on people. It takes energy to suppress emotions, so it’s not surprising that workers who must remain neutral are often more rundown or show greater levels of burnout. The more energy you spend controlling your emotions, the less energy you have to devote to tasks at hand.’

While there are many professions that require its workers to “remain neutral,” healthcare — with its added life-saving stresses and inherent risks — is a prime environment in which its workers are expected to remain emotionally neutral in the face of never-ending and complex demands.

Perhaps, one of the most basic and fundamental ways of introducing mindfulness in healthcare organizations is to highlight the benefits that mindfulness training and practice could have on its caregivers who experience constant stress and demands on and the emotional suppression and neutrality often required of them. Mindfulness and emotional intelligence are inextricably linked; therefore, it seems to me that introducing mindfulness in healthcare organizations would not only improve the caregiver experience but directly correlate to the patient and family experience as well.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject:

While “I am making an assumption that introducing mindfulness in hospitals and healthcare organizations is important and of interest. I do believe it is critically important for person-centered (staff, physician, leader and patient/family) care. Do you agree? If so, what are some effective ways of introducing mindfulness in healthcare?”

Thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments and thoughts.


3 Ways to Create a Service Mindset in Your Organization—and how one person can make a difference!

As Bob Farrell, founder of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant, said in his well-known and excellent Customer Service video “Give ‘Em The Pickle”: “How you think about the customer is how you will treat them.” With this in mind, “3 Ways to Create a Service Mindset in Your Organization—and how one person can make a difference!” by Kathy Cuff is an important article because mindset (and heart-set, for that matter) matters! Mindset is a key differentiator and one of the primary reasons that one team member goes above and beyond, expresses empathy and compassion, finds joy and meaning in what they do for your organization, etc. and why the team member standing right next to them may not.

Blanchard LeaderChat

bigstock-Closeup-of-a-young-shop-assist-18298034Customer Service—it is found in every industry, every company, every person’s job, at every moment. If you don’t deal directly with the external customer, you interact with and serve your internal customers throughout the day. What I love the most is when people get it—when they take pride and ownership in what they do, and they do it with a smile. Let me share my latest experience with you.

I recently moved—only a few streets away, but a move nonetheless with all the hassle, packing, and work that goes with it. Well, being the “just in time” gal that I am, I didn’t turn in our change of address form to the U.S. Postal Service until the day after we moved, so our mail was delayed getting to us.

About a week or so after our move, I realized we had not received a very important piece of mail—my husband’s…

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