Posts Tagged ‘Patient experience’

Last week I published a post about Renown Health’s commitment to taking action outside of the hospital’s walls to address community health. I visited Renown a couple of weeks ago and was thoroughly impressed by so many aspects of their operation. Today I’m sharing some thoughts about what Renown Health is doing within its walls to create a healing and healthy environment for patients, family members, visitors and employees.


Photo Caption: Display of artwork at Renown Health

When I speak at conferences, there are always a few audience members who are surprised to hear me say that many hospitals were not designed with the patient and his or her family in mind. For decades we built institutions that were not patient- and family-friendly and certainly weren’t hospitable. The facilities were cold and stark. They were loud. Lighting was horrible. These were not what I call healing environments. They were places for medical and therapeutic interventions – and for monitoring patients during recovery.

Today we understand that the environment has a lot to do with the patient’s recovery and well-being. It can also impact employees and their job performance. So, thank goodness, we are building amazing new healthcare facilities that truly offer patients, family members and hospital employees a healing and healthy environment. Many new hospitals have circadian lighting to simulate a natural environment. It is common to find artwork on the walls of the facility, and occasionally in patient rooms. I love this trend! Patient rooms now make accommodations for family members spending the night. Many hospitals have even eliminated formal visiting hours and offer valet parking – two patient-centric developments.

Throughout the industry there has also been an effort to make hospitals healthier environments by eliminating smoking and by emphasizing healthy food options in cafeterias and other hospital-based restaurants. Many healthcare organizations now have weekly farmer’s markets for their employees and visitors – emphasizing the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating. And finally, the Green Health movement has led to many hospitals to start using non-toxic building and cleaning products to reduce the negative health impact on patients, visitors and employees.

Within the hospital’s walls: As my colleague and I toured Renown last week we were astounded by the healing environment they have created. And trust me, not every hospital qualifies as having a healing environment. So what has Renown done to distinguish itself? First, Renown has more original art displayed throughout the medical center than I have ever seen within a healthcare organization – paintings, photography and sculpture. There are also amazing healing gardens for adults and children. The adult garden has a labyrinth – an amazing tool for meditation and reflection.


Photo Caption: Glass Sculpture at Renown Health


Photo Caption: Children’s Healing Garden at Renown Health

One of the other patient- and family-friendly features that impressed me as we toured Renown is the abundance of retail within the medical center. Renown Regional Medical Center is home to a variety of shops offering everything from mom and baby gifts to trendy clothing, from fresh-cut flowers to balloons, from sit-down dining to grab-and-go treats. The Shops at Renown Health include a CVS Pharmacy, the Artisan Market Bistro, Starbucks, an upscale Boutique, a floral shop, FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt, Subway, a logo shop for Renown apparel, a traditional gift shot (Sierra Gifts), and a cafe featuring healthy options and cuisine from around the world (Chinese, Mexican, European, Mediterranean, etc). When visiting the shops and restaurants you get a sense of the familiar – a feeling a normalcy. That has to be a calming experience for patients, family members and visitors.

Finally, Renown has full service hotel on the Renown Regional Medical Center campus. The Inn at Renown offers non-smoking rooms perfect for patients and their families, medical center visitors and guests attending on-campus seminars. Three of the rooms include kitchenettes for guests who plan an extended stay.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-8-27-27-amThese are just a few of the features I noted while on our tour of Renown Regional Medical Center. The abundance of original art, because it is so visually striking, left the greatest impression upon me. This was particularly true in the Renown Institute for Cancer. When the patient enters the Institute, he or she immediately faces a vibrant wall sculpture. Around every corner is the visitor finds a new piece of art. My guess is that the environment is not at all what first time visitors expect of a cancer center. However, it is what I have come to expect of modern, patient-friendly facilities!

If you’re interested in the creation of healing environments within hospitals, here are some posts I’ve written on the subject in the past:

Vermont Hospitals Embrace Art to Create Healing Environments

Reducing Hospital Noise to Create Healing Environments

Hospitals Offering Concierge Services for Patients

Green Initiatives on the Rise in Healthcare

Bringing the Arts into your Hospital


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My friends at Inspire.com drew my attention to an article posted on Philly.com about people’s experience living with rare diseases. The article, “Patients talk about the frustration and loneliness of rare diseases,” shares verbatim responses from individuals who belong to rare disease communities hosted by Inspire.com.

For those of us who work in healthcare marketing, sometimes the voice of the patient is too distant; and often there are louder voices with which we contend. I’ve always believed that listening to patients’ first hand accounts of their experiences will make us better communicators and marketers, and make our organizations better healthcare providers.

I strongly recommend you check out this story on Philly.com. If nothing else, it will remind you why what we do is so important, and why we must continually encourage our organizations to get better.

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FocusGroupOften when I am moderating focus groups for hospital clients, I hear patients and former patients complain about the most basic things. In healthcare, we seem to forget that the patient experience starts at the beginning. That could be their experience on the hospital website or their first contact with an employee or volunteer when they walk in the front door. Sometimes that experience begins in the parking garage, minutes before they make it to the front door.

Think about it. When someone greets you warmly and puts a smile on your face, that experience has a way of impacting your entire day. It has a halo effect. It puts you in a good mood and you suddenly see things through positive filters. So why don’t we put more thought and energy into the way we welcome people as they arrive at our facilities?

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.32.39 PMI have a weekly meeting on the campus of Duke University. I park in one of the parking garages next to the medical center. This is a garage used by a wide variety of patients, including those visiting the Cancer Center. Each week as I pull up to the garage to get my ticket prior to parking, a smiling, boisterous woman greets me and has something positive to say. She is an employee who works at the parking deck, and her job, whether by her design or Duke’s, is to greet people driving into the facility. I don’t know if it is in her job description, but I am certain that her number one priority is to put a smile on the face of each person entering her garage that day. She always compliments me on my neck tie, and if its a Monday, she’ll ask me if I had a good weekend. Sometimes she even sings to all of us and spreads joy. That’s it. She spreads joy. It happens every time I see her.

So how do you think that impacts the patient experience? Imagine people feeling scared and intimidated as they approach this large medical center – the kind of place people go when they are really sick, maybe facing a terminal illness. And think about what it means to them to be greeted with such warmth. I don’t know what they pay that lady at the parking deck, but it is not enough. She is a brand ambassador without equal. Later in the day, as the patient and his or her family members move from one medical appointment to another, that wonderful lady who put a smile on their faces may not be top-of-mind, but I guarantee you that they have a warm feeling about Duke Medicine.

Compare that to the many hospitals I visit where I have trouble getting the employee or volunteer behind the front desk to even acknowledge me. When they do acknowledge me, they often look as if I have interrupted them from something far more important.

I don’t want to over simplify patient experience design. Everything can be perfect and if we fail with patient transport at discharge, that may well be the thing they remember. But one thing we can control, and get right, is the way we welcome patients and family members into our hospitals and outpatient facilities. We can put our best foot forward every time. The idea of a warm greeting should be institutionalized! It should be part of the culture.

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Healthcare can be complex and intimidating. There is so much for patients to navigate. As I documented in an earlier blog post, I just spent two weeks trying to identify and book an appointment with a new primary care physician. It was a significant challenge finding a physician with an open patient panel and then trying to get someone one from the practice to answer the phone or return my messages. And I work in healthcare.

So what if healthcare was as simple as operating a TV remote? Not one of those hard-to-program remotes that take multiple hours to learn how to operate, but those intuitive, easy-to-program remotes with less buttons for more convenient use.  Doesn’t that sound like a television operator’s dream? If this were applied to healthcare, what effect would it have on the current patient population? My belief is it might help to break down barriers to care and improve access.

Well, judging from a recent Time Magazine article, “Simple Design: What Health Care Can Learn from a TV Remote Control,” if healthcare could be simplified, it seems as though patients would be increasingly more receptive and engaged than they currently are.

Authors Dr. Zachary F. Meisel and Dr. Jesse M. Pines state that navigating the medical system is currently a “struggle for patients” to the point that even the simplest of tasks such as making an appointment has been considered a pain. (This certainly validates my recent experience!) One factor to the hassle factor is that inter-specialist communication within medical facilities is often weak, making the process very time-consuming and frustrating for patients. Let’s face it, care coordination generally is non-existent within most healthcare organizations. Consequently, a study by ZocDoc, discovered that more than half of the 18-to-34-year-olds surveyed admitted to delaying medical care because the process was overly difficult. Patients who are accustomed to easy, user-friendly technology to schedule their appointments find it painful when they have to rely on what they perceive to be slow receptionists and uncommunicative physicians. Frankly, most of us know what an easy and positive experience looks like. For years we’ve interacted with businesses like Amazon.com, and we know it doesn’t have to be difficult to handle transactions online. So when the online experience is more difficult or complex than necessary, or if the option is not available to schedule appointments online, it is a disappointment.

According to the authors, the problem lies in the fact that technology, while increasingly integrated into the healthcare realm, has not yet been crafted in a user-friendly fashion for the convenience of both patients and physicians.

For example, doctors have complained that tasks such as entering data into electronic medical records “pulls them away from the bedside to the computer” and requires more time than the original paper recording. (My physician is forced to turn his back to me as he enters details into the medical record. It is a work-design issue.)

The question is how can we make it easier for patients to navigate the system and for doctors to record and exchange information?  One initiative in combating this challenge is ZocDoc’s new innovative scheduling model that allows patients to “set up appointments online, from a computer or smartphone, and search for open meeting times with local doctors, even specialists.” In addition, the government has started its own effort by “encouraging entrepreneurs to develop innovative consumer-oriented applications using government data.”

Simplifying the patient’s experience and truly coordinating care should have a dramatic impact on the willingness of individuals to seek care when needed, and access diagnostic and prevention services.

For more information and to read the Time article, click here.

(Post written by Dan Dunlop with Charles Ramsey. Charles is a healthcare marketing intern at Jennings and a student at Wake Forest University. He’s learning a lot about healthcare this summer as he researches topics for blog posts.)

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Day one at the National Forum on Customer Based Marketing Strategies was a marathon! I left Raleigh-Durham on a 5:40am flight to Las Vegas. I arrived in time for all of the conference activities with sessions kicking off at 1pm.

On day one, there were a couple of real bright spots. The first was a presentation by Barbara McLaurine of Progress West Healthcare and Burl Stamp of Stamp & Chase, Inc. The title of their presentation was “Delivering on the Brand Promise: A Marketing, Operations, and Human Resources Partnership.” They told the story of how Progress West develop a state-of-the-art facility designed with patient and families in mind, along with a new patient-centered care philosophy. At Progress West they have redefined healthcare by design. They built facilities with private rooms, natural light, patient control of their environment, and work stations on wheels for nursing staff. And then they imbued the management and staff with their ‘Caremunication’ philosophy of care.  Both Barb and Burl were terrific presenters. They covered a ton of ground in a short amount of time.

The second bright spot was a presentation titled “The Service is the Marketing” by Len Berry, Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M University and Kent Seltman, Senior Marketing Consultant, Mayo Clinic. Their presentation shared some of the key themes from Barb and Burl’s presentation: focus on the patient experience (staff and patient interaction) and the importance of facility design, in particular. Although Kent and Len moved slowly through their material, their messaging was right on. In short, their fundamental message is that we can market our institutions all day, but if the patient experience is not a good one, the marketing won’t be successful. Patient experience determines whether or not they will ever return and whether or not they’ll say good things to others. So the service really is the marketing. Kent and Len are co-authors of the book: Management Lessons From Mayo Clinic: Inside the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations.

It was a good first day and I look forward to what I’ll experience in day two. The conference is produced by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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