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

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

CEO and Cofounder Edward Shin, MD caught up with Joan Kelly to talk about her thesis around patient experience. She is 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. She has worked on both sides of the healthcare 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 knew that she didn’t want a healthcare career. Instead, she chose business, which led her to working in the business aspect of healthcare. Her employer Virgin started implementing an insurance program that rewarded employees for exercise, and her perspective became important for redesigning healthcare. With the newly implemented practices, she noticed a disconnect between providers and patients, which impacted customer service.

Taking a Team Approach to Patient Care

After all, healthcare is a business, and service quality affects revenue. While no provider outwardly commits to poor patient care experiences, survey data reveals how they might fall short. They aren’t meeting the needs of their patient, or putting themselves in patients’ shoes. It often falls on frontline staff––doctors and nurses, many who are already on the verge of burnout.

In Kelly’s experience, problem solving is a continuous journey that is aimed at progress, not perfection. Furthermore, she’s noticed how various hospital systems put the onus on frontline staff to care for patients and implement patient satisfaction goals. These goals are often not clearly defined. The staff experience, as well as the patient’s, needs to be improved in order to hit quality markers.

To help patients get past their freeze response, doctors must fix the breakdown in communication. Many doctors may assume that patients aren’t asking questions simply because they don’t have any. However, these patients are actually frozen after being inundated with 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 more willing to use it.”

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

Comprehensive technology should be 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 monitor 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®.  A system that pulls  real-time data, and can help providers get to know their patients can be helpful for understanding the why behind their behaviours and decisions.

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

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