What the patient experience really means for families waiting for answers


Imagine for a minute, that you aren’t an executive in a healthcare organization.  Your child was just admitted to the local hospital with severe breathing problems.  The doctors and nurses have been in and out of that hospital room many times, running tests, hooking up IVs and checking oxygen levels.  The feeling of helplessness has overcome you, because naturally all parents just want their children to be healthy and happy, no matter what their age is.   

The minutes turn into hours and you are left there waiting for answers.  During that time, yourchild-in-hospital.jpg child is able to finally get a little sleep, but not you.  You are sitting there, listening for every breath and staring at every tiny detail in that hospital room.  There may be a crack in the floor tile. The wall on one side of the room is banged up from what appears to be something running into it. The bathroom door has an awful squeak and appears to be missing screws from one of the door hinges.  The sink faucet has a drip leak and with every drop you are reminded how the minutes feel like hours, and still no word on what could be wrong with your child or how to fix it. 
The fact that minor maintenance details of the room have been ignored, in the back of your mind you start to develop some doubt in the attention they will give to your child.  You haven’t seen a doctor in hours – are they really trying to find the underlying cause of the issue, or are they just ignoring it until it’s an emergency.  In reality, healthcare providers put their primary focus on the patients, as they should; however, the full patient experience also includes the families – and families notice the details.
2016-3-20_MedExcel6311.jpgNow, put your healthcare leader hat back on.  Families are sitting in your hospital waiting to get answers about their loved ones.  From your perspective your hospital is in great shape, nothing appears to be deferred or run-down from your view.  Keep in mind, these families have a lot of time on their hands to look at every detail.  Doctors and nurses often don’t see these defects because they have a lot of patients to help and aren’t spending the amount of time in patient rooms to even notice a small crack in the floor.  Or maybe they notice it, but don’t take the time to inform the facilities staff in order for it to get repaired. Think of this as the ‘frosted glass’, difficult to see through, but taking the time to really examine the details and develop a process will help you and your staff see things through the eyes of those families.
In our experience, we’ve learned that many times staff will notice a banged up wall or a crack in the floor and solely rely on the facilities staff to identify those issues and fix them.  Roughly 80% of aesthetic issues in a hospital are caused by the associates working in that hospital. Yes, the facilities staff will fix the issue– but if they don’t know about it, it may go unnoticed for weeks or even months. Something as simple as creating an easy way for staff in units throughout the hospital to report issues to the facilities team will expedite the response, meaning less time for those families to notice issues, and giving you a great view through that frosted glass by utilizing all the eyes on staff. 
What will the families waiting in your hospital see?  What will they say on the HCHAPS survey 2016-3-20_MedExcel6745-(1).jpgthey are sent to fill out?  Taking the time to look through the frosted glass, develop and understand your facilities plan for timely repairs that ensures compliance will certainly make an
 impact on the full patient experience.  That crack in the floor may seem tiny now, but what happens when left unattended? It could pose a safety concern, invite a costly deferred repair and could also instill a lack of confidence from those families in the care being provided.  The frosted glass may not paint a pretty picture at first, but trust us, it will be well worth your time.