Making Patient Experience Personal

patient experience personalHealthcare is personal. Whether it’s a routine checkup, post-survey visit, a restricted diet regimen, weight management, genetics, or even allergies, whatever the patient’s needs, everyone has their own set of behaviors, preferences, beliefs, and motivations, which make us all unique individuals. So why do so many aspects of healthcare seem like a “one-size-fits-all” approach? There are many standardizations in healthcare, which can often leave a patient feeling as if they are just one of the masses. While there may be useful applications for standard procedures, standard protocols, clinical pathways, surgical checklists, and evidence-based treatment plans, a patient’s care and experience can still be very be personalized.
Personalized care ensures that each patient is made to feel like an individual rather than just “one of many.” Below are five best practices to making the patient experience feel more personal.

  1. Use personal gestures- Encourage every team member to us the patient’s name in verbal and written communication such as letters, emails, and texts. Using what may seem to be a small gesture can also go a long way in making the patient feel special. For example, greeting patients with a smile, listening to what the patient has to say, and repeating the patient’s requests or concerns back to them is an effective technique. Showing support by offering a box of tissues if a patient is upset or sick, or a glass of water if they are coughing, or by simply saying, “is there anything that I can do to make you more comfortable while you’re waiting” means a lot. There are many caring gestures that can show patients you are invested in their health and well-being.
  2. Take a personal interest- Instruct staff to find out something personal about the patient and include it as part of their interactions. It is amazing what can be discovered with just a few simple questions. Often expressing a personal interest can have a positive effect, both on the patient-provider relationship as well as the patient’s adherence to their treatment plan. Below are a few simple questions that can be asked: 
    • What should we know about you in order to provide better care?
    • What do you like to do for fun? What are your interests?
    • What is most important to you regarding your healthcare?

  3. Shared decision-making- is a collaborative process that allows patients and their providers to make health care decisions together. Shared decision making considers the best clinical evidence available, as well as the patient’s values and preferences. Viewing patients as partners in care and engaging them throughout the decision-making process is an important part of patient-centered care. A collaborative approach can also impact the quality, cost, and safety of health care delivery.
  4. Patient education- Research has demonstrated that patient education can lead to improved patient compliance and health outcomes. Effective patient education and teaching methods will increase patient knowledge, decrease patient anxiety, and result in increased satisfaction. Some useful techniques include the use of in-clinic computer technology, multimedia resources, and of course written materials. Patient education may also be provided through a practice website, or via a personal consultation. In-person demonstrations can be very effective.
  5. Always follow-up- Patients are often frustrated by the inability to communicate with their physician in between or after appointments. Ensure that processes are in place to open the lines of communication. Consider using technology to help. Patient portals, email, text reminders are all simple and effective ways to help ensure consistent follow up and communication.

Personalized care is an important part of the patient experience and can be a determining factor in patient loyalty. Helping patients feel cared for, respected, engaged, educated, and involved in decision-making is not only the right thing to do it has been linked to better compliance, improved recovery and outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction.

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