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A conversation about the patient experience

patient experience conversation

Susan Haufe; Michael Bennick, MD

In recognition of National Patient Experience Week April 23 - 27, Michael Bennick, MD, medical director, YNHHS Patient Experience, and Susan Haufe, YNHHS chief experience officer, shared the latest on Yale New Haven Health’s patient experience efforts.

Susan, you are the health system’s first chief experience officer. What is your role?

Haufe: Working with staff and leaders throughout the organization, I’ve spent the past six months assessing where we are with patient experience. We’re looking not just at Press Ganey and other survey scores, but at each hospital’s efforts to improve the patient experience, along with their challenges and successes.

Moving forward, we are developing a system-wide patient experience structure and strategies.

How is Yale New Haven Health System doing with patient experience?

Haufe: Providing an excellent patient experience has always been a priority for our system and our hospitals, but each organization has taken different approaches, in terms of communication, awareness, training, recognition and other activities. The result is that patients and families may have very different experiences, both within each hospital and between sites of care. We have top performers in our midst, as well as areas that have opportunities to more consistently meet and exceed our patients’ and families’ expectations. 

How is the health system addressing those differences?

Dr. Bennick: Our patient experience team is developing a system-wide approach that also includes our partners in Yale Medicine. This approach will respect each hospital’s strengths, while ensuring that we provide a consistent patient experience across all of our sites and the continuum of care. This work is part of Yale New Haven Health System’s efforts to develop a care signature, in which quality, safety and the patient experience are interwoven.

What will the system-wide approach to patient experience include?

Haufe: Research shows that in any industry, several elements are necessary to provide a superior customer experience. In health care, these include a patient-centered focus and communication at every patient interaction; seamless care transitions; and a consistent “look and feel” at every touchpoint – whether the patient is in the hospital, at an ambulatory site or calling the billing office. Other elements are prioritizing patient and family needs and providing convenient access to care and availability of services based on patients’ needs.

How will employees be involved in YNHHS patient experience efforts?

Haufe: Our job is to engage the hearts and minds of every employee – whether they provide direct patient care or work in a different type of position – so they understand and value their role in providing an excellent patient experience.

Dr. Bennick: We recognize that employees and physicians need to be heard, so we are exploring ways to engage them, help them communicate more effectively with patients, families and one another and improve their resiliency in order to reduce caregiver burnout, which can impact the patient experience.

Have the Standards of Professional Behavior, launched last year, affected the patient experience?

Dr. Bennick: One immediate benefit we’re seeing is that the standards provide a common language about how to treat fellow employees, our patients and their families. The standards are also hard-wired into new employee orientation and part of performance reviews. In the long term, they will help change how employees interact with patients. This will take time, and along the way, it’s important to recognize and reward employees who use the standards to enhance patient interactions.

What’s the number one thing all employees can do to improve the patient experience?

Dr. Bennick: It’s a simple concept, but challenging to do: we all need to change our perspectives so that we see everything we do from the perspectives of our patients and their families. No matter what we’re doing, we need to ask ourselves, ‘is this right for the patient?’”