I had a routine GI procedure three weeks ago. You know the drill; “after the prep, the procedure is a piece of cake…”
I had a great experience. The results were clean and benign! The staff were friendly, the center was clean, the nurses were kind and professional and explained everything well. The doctor was personable and had an appropriate (enjoyable for me) sense of humor. Everything ran on time and my ‘competent adult’ escort got me home before lunch time – I was starving!
Life quickly returned to its ‘pre-prep’ normalcy and the procedure was a distant memory. Or so I thought…
This morning a 37-question paper survey arrived in our mail box, asking me to share my “thoughts and feelings”.
My immediate reaction of wanting to recycle this piece of ‘junk mail’ was curtailed by my morbid curiosity to re-examine this antiquated and ineffective means of gathering feedback.
Do our hospital and health system leaders really believe that this is an effective way to gather feedback about my experience of the care that I received? I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning and you’re asking me to rate the “Attractiveness of the Surgery Center” from three weeks ago.
This is absurd on so many levels!
I really don’t recall how attractive the surgery center was, nor do I really care.
I care that your staff were kind, compassionate and didn’t keep me waiting. I care that you knew who I was and did the correct procedure on me. I care that you explained what you were doing to me and that you all seem to know what each other was doing, apparently enjoyed working together, had the equipment to do your jobs safely and effectively and seemed to be committed to taking care of me as a priority.
Listen. If you really want my feedback, if you really want to know my thoughts and feelings, do what our vet does after my dogs have a visit; call me that night or the next morning. If I’m not available chat with my wife (she was the competent adult that picked me up…), trust me, she will know whether my experience with you, your facility and your caregivers was anything other than stellar.
This would also allow you to determine whether I was suffering any post-procedure discomfort or pain. That call would also be an appropriate time to ask me whether I had any questions about the procedure and you could remind me about any follow up that I needed to remember.
If you can’t afford the time for a person to make a call, then send me a text or an email with half a dozen quick questions. In fact, that might be better, then you’d have the real time data to inform any changes to your operations or any service recovery for your patients.
The 80’s called, they would like their survey back!
We can do better than this, our patients and caregivers deserve better than this!
P.s. send the pager and fax machine back too…
It’s been more than five years since I dipped my toe into the world of blogging when I wrote – “The Emperor is Naked! Taking risks to reduce risk…”
The title was a clumsy headline intended to grab your attention.
The point then is the same as it is today so here’s a reprise – Still Naked
The fear of speaking up and being vulnerable is getting in the way of delivering safe and effective healthcare. The fear of speaking up is paralyzing leaders and their teams.
Coming over that fear requires bravery and as my friend and mentor Steve Farber (author of the Radical Leap) would say, vulnerability:
“Vulnerability aids human connection, and connection is the conduit for energy. Pretense of invincibility builds walls and creates distance between human hearts.”
Time to close this distance. Time to speak up. Time to get naked…
I recently used Robert Frost’s poem “The Secret Sits” as a blog writing prompt…
“We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”
In the blog I suggest that much of what we do as leaders in healthcare (the dance) and what we measure in healthcare are disconnected from what our patients and staff really want and need (the secret sitting in the middle).
I was recently in a hospital conference room preparing for a leadership meeting; the walls were papered from floor to ceiling with graphs, tables and charts… a “loud” visual statement that a myriad aspect of operations was being measured and reported. During our meetings I dug a little deeper, listened to the leaders, caregivers and patients, and then looked a little closer at the “scores” on the walls.
Outcomes, as measured and reported, apparently hadn’t changed much over the past two-years… It was not lost on me either that this conference room that is billed as the “control-center” of operations felt lifeless and soulless… For an organization committed to ‘health’ and ‘care’, this felt like a disconnect.
And I’ve seen hospitals that are listening to the “secret”. They are measuring, reacting and acting differently. They are breathing life into their data and working on ways to make it as real-time as the work and care that it is intended to measure. Outcomes are improving, care is safer and the experience of those caring and being cared for is markedly improved; so I am optimistic and incredibly hopeful that we can rethink what we measure and how we act. How we lead.
Check out my blog “Improving the Experience of Care” (first in a two-part series) on our company’s site. I’d love your thoughts, comments and ideas:
- Are we measuring the right things in healthcare?
- Is chasing an improved CAHPS score, or a better CMS Star Rating, the right way to drive change?
- Can we measure everything that matters?
- How do you measure a healthy, effective and respectful culture?
- What’s the secret that you’re dancing around?
I recently re-read the words of broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, “America’s healthcare system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”
This sad and yet truthful reflection, combined with the reality that our founding partner, mentor, friend, student of the classics, and therefore a natural etymologist – Tim Sullivan – had me thinking about the origination of the words we use in healthcare.
Two words in particular; hospital and patient.
A quick scan of history reveals that in the middle ages hospitals were in fact almshouses for the poor, or hostels for pilgrims. The word ‘hospital’ comes from the Latin word hospes, meaning an entertainer, host, a visitor, a guest, a friend bound by the ties of hospitality.
Another noun derived from this is hospitum which came to mean hospitality, or the relationship between guest and shelterer. Hospes is also the root of the English word host.
In my travels, I have witnessed many hospital leaders who have lost sight of the fact that our roots go back to providing shelter for the poor, a resting place for those on pilgrimage, and completely lost sight of the tenets of welcoming patients as guest or friend.
The English noun ‘patient’ comes from the Latin word patiens, the present participle of the verb, patior, meaning ‘I am suffering’.
The hospital should be a place of respite for the friend that is suffering.
I think it is fair to say that if you’re leading in a hospital (regardless of size) you’re contributing to the running of one of the oldest aspects of the “service industry”. Yet at many hospitals, we seem to have left the consistent delivery of this ‘service’ completely up to chance or in the care of those without the training and skills necessary to deliver upon the promise.
Service – from the old English meaning religious devotion or a form of liturgy, from old French servise or Latin servitium ‘slavery,’ from servus ‘slave.’ The early sense of the verb (mid-19th century) was ‘be of service to’, or ‘to provide with a service.’
What service is your institution providing those who are suffering that come to your hospital for care and cure?
Do you insist on telling your patients and communities why they should be satisfied with your ‘service’ because of how safe you are, what good ratings you get, or how qualified your staff are?
Or are you listening to those you are called to serve in order that you might better deliver the service(s) they need?
Your patients want to feel welcome, be treated kindly, understood, healed, cured, communicated with (not to), and they don’t want their time to be wasted.
The rest (the safety, the expertise and the qualifications) are a prerequisite – foundational and non-negotiable.
Are you listening to those you serve?