Want to Teach Your Team How to Improve the Patient Experience? Start with Skill Building

“The patient experience is now globally recognized as an independent dimension of healthcare quality,” according to the Journal of Patient Experience and the National Institute of Health. But, the Journal goes on to note that the fact that healthcare organizations are often unsure of how exactly to improve the patient experience isn’t surprising. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. 

The fact of the matter is that the American healthcare system is facing a crisis that impacts the experience of patients and clinicians alike. In the face of declining patient satisfaction, overstretching and understaffing, clinician burnout, and financial strain, there seems to be one pressing question on every healthcare system’s mind: “How can we empower our staff and improve patient experience?” 

Enter: skill building. 

The Foundation of Patient-Centered Care 

Organizational skill building involves the teaching and training of individual professionals and teams to advance the skills they need to excel at their daily tasks. 

According to a recent McKinsey & Company publication, “The urgency of addressing skill gaps is clear… skill building is the best way to close those gaps.” 

If you work in healthcare, you probably already know that patient experience is worth investing in. For most, uncertainty comes into play surrounding what actionable steps should be taken to promote more positive experiences. 

Out of the need for comprehensive skill development solutions, Practicing Excellence was born. We believe that skill building is the solution to improve clinician and patient experience because of its ability to strengthen clinicians’ capacities to provide higher-quality care. This is why we use microlearning to coach healthcare professionals to build the skills they need in order to drive measurable improvements in their organization’s performance. What’s the most sought-after performance improvement, you ask? Patient experience. 

The founder and CEO of Practicing Excellence, Stephen Beeson, MD, points out the often overlooked but critical nature of experience-related skill building, noting that “People will think that the development of clinicians is all about finding the most recent diagnostic [strategies] and treatments, and… absolutely, that is something we should spend time and effort doing. But, what we have found is that effective treatment requires trust, communication, collaboration, and partnership with patients.” Clinicians need development in these areas, too. In fact, it’s critical to the patient experience. That’s why we build tailored skill building solutions in order to energize organizations’ patient-centric approaches and equip clinicians with the skills they might not have learned in medical school. 

Identifying Critical Skills 

In order to fully grasp the profound connection between skill building and patient experience improvements, we need to conceptualize the skills that are necessary for a team member to have in order to provide high-quality patient care. 

Consider a standard Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare and Systems survey. When patients take the survey, they’re asked about communication with clinicians, responsiveness of staff, how well discharge information was disseminated, etc. These are all proxies for the type of experience a healthcare professional is able to execute based on the skills they’ve mastered. Skills like these are critical to the patient experience but often under-discussed in clinical training: 

  • Signaling compassion and warmth 
  • Active listening 
  • Building rapport 
  • Gracefully overcoming service challenges
  • Connecting with patient family members 
  • Offering education that suits a patient’s health literacy, and more. 

Without the infusion of these skills, even the most technically excellent care will fall short. When skills like these are mastered, however, clinicians are equipped to excel at offering patients a positive experience. This is why Practicing Excellence identifies these skills in tandem with the challenges an organization is facing before targeting solutions through skill-building training programs. The best part? It works. 

Skill Development Initiatives for Measurable Impact 

When organizations prioritize skill building, development initiatives produce a tangible impact, complete with measurable outcomes like improved patient satisfaction scores and increased referrals. 

Take these case-studies, for example: 

Corewell Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan was seeing inconsistent HCAHPS scores. After deploying a tailored skill building program focusing on skills like conveying respect, bringing compassion, and efficiently rounding, their teams saw a 7.7 raw point improvement in patient experience scores for clinicians who participated in the program. 

Ochsner OSU Health’s emergency medicine team wasn’t meeting its patient satisfaction goals before the implementation of skill building. In March of 2020, the organization ranked in the 29th percentile the “Likelihood To Recommend ” performance rating. One year of skill building later, they ranked in the 99th percentile. 

Perhaps even more satisfying than the numbers, however, is the knowledge that improving the patient experience, taking better care of those we treat, and nurturing human connection in healthcare is simply the right thing to do. 

Skill Building In Summary 

The promotion of skill building is the promotion of people development. This is what (or, rather, who) moves the needle when it comes to patient experience. When we enhance the skills of the individuals on our teams, we enhance our teams’ capacity for excellence. 

Ready to build your organization’s skill-building program? There’s no need to wait. Get in touch!

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