Real-World Lessons in Patient Experience: A Conversation with Joan Kelly

Real-World Lessons in Patient Experience: A Conversation with Joan Kelly September 22, 2021

CEO and Cofounder Edward Shin, MD caught up with Joan Kelly to talk about her thesis around patient experience. The former Chief Experience Officer of NYU Langone Health System in New York, and the former Chief Experience Officer of Yale New Haven Health System in New Haven, CT has been on both sides of the patient experience, and she sees firsthand how it impacts care.

“Those in the system don’t always know what’s going on”

After years of helping to care for her quadriplegic father, Kelly was certain that she didn’t want a healthcare career. However, she wanted to go the business route and somehow ended up working in the business aspect of healthcare. Once her employer Virgin began to implement an insurance program that rewarded employees for working out, her systemic perspective became important for redesigning healthcare. With the newly implemented insurance practices, she noticed a disconnect between both providers and patients that impacted customer service.

Taking a Team Approach to Patient Care

Afterall, healthcare is a business, and quality of service affects revenue. While no provider outwardly commits to poor patient experiences, survey data can reveal that they aren’t meeting the needs of their patient, or putting themselves in a patient’s shoes. It often falls on frontline staff––doctors and nurses, many who are already on the verge of burnout.

In Kelly’s experience of helping systems like NYU Langone improve patient experience, problem solving is a continuous journey that isn’t aimed at perfection, but instead, progress. Furthermore, she noticed how various hospital systems have a habit of putting the onus on frontline staff to care for patients and implement patient satisfaction goals, which may not be clearly defined. She explains that the staff experience, as well as that of the patient, needed to be improved in order to hit quality markers.

Fixing that breakdown in communication for patients could help to get past their freeze response. While doctors may assume that patients aren’t asking questions simply because they don’t have any, these patients are actually frozen after being inundated with a ton of information. This can happen as well when they are given too much work to do once they go home.

“Technology has advanced so much and with COVID, people are willing to use it more.”

Technology has been a great tool for empowering patients, even if that means taking the extra step of sending a text message with data prior to the next appointment or recording the conversation to refer to at a later time.

That is why data, which can be pulled from a Q-Reviews® survey is essential to learning about the patients’ needs. This data finds that 80% of patient complaints revolve around communication, and not just communication with patients, but also among staff. Some observe how frontline workers aren’t always on the same page or aware of updates, and this impacts the patient experience. When they are working in sync, nurses are able to assuage a patient’s fear, calming them so that they can adequately process the data that was already presented by the doctor.

What is also crucial, in the post-Covid era, is comprehensive technology that is clear and convenient for patients. Kelly gives the example of a patient trying to book an appointment. If an online platform is the preferred method, then that platform needs to work. If the phone is preferred, that needs to be clear for patients.

Important technology could be an electronic workflow system that helps providers to be on top of a patient’s care while they are at a facility. Also, providers should have a sense of what technology is most effective for their population. Many could benefit from a system like Q-Reviews®, which pulls real-time data, and can help providers not only get to know their patients, but also the why behind their behaviors and decisions.

Collecting data is crucial for uncovering and rectifying flaws in patient experience. As Kelly puts it: “Businesses are interested, not in perfection but “being better than they were yesterday and the day before.”


Edward Shin, MD

CEO and Co-Founder

Previously co-founded WellApps and Healogica. Built and led a healthcare team at Gerson Lehrman Group. Director of Content Development at Healthology. Ed received his BA and MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York and is board-certified in Internal Medicine.

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