When you think about yourself as a patient in a health care setting, what comes to mind? Searching for the right care you need? Setting up an appointment? Getting answers to your medical questions? Perhaps it is some or all of the above.
All those facets along with many others — how you feel about your care, the communication you receive before and after your visit, the helpfulness of the staff, your connection with the provider — make up what the health care industry calls the “patient experience.”
Years ago, if a patient was satisfied with the outcome of a medical or surgical procedure, that was a major marker for success for health care systems. But today, we know that many other aspects of a patient and family journey matter, from ensuring ease when making an appointment to clear directions for what to do after your care.
So, what exactly does that look like for the patient? “The act doesn’t have to be a grand gesture,” said Craig Loundas, PhD, associate vice president of the Penn Medicine Experience (PMX). “You’d be surprised — one small act of kindness such as offering comforting words to a nervous patient or simply guiding a patient to a parking spot can go a long way in creating an enduring connection.”
At Penn Medicine, Loundas leads the PMX team, which is at the forefront of embedding the essential elements of the patient experience throughout the organization. They support the PMX Leadership Team, a system wide group of leaders who are dedicated to ensuring service excellence at every point of care for patients, caregivers, and staff, as well as collecting and curating patient survey data to ensure we provide the best care for our patients and continue to improve every day.
And how does PMX define the patient experience? “A patient-centered approach should yield three things,” Loundas explained. “First, the patient is confident in the system, for example, they feel that their doctor knows what they are talking about. Second, the patient is heard and seen. Finally, the patient experience and the eco-system of Penn Medicine is all coordinated and focused on the patient — they are at the center of every decision.”
Getting the Knack for Feedback
From the grocery store to your favorite clothing brand, everyone wants feedback: “There’s a survey link on your receipt, I’d appreciate it if you would fill it out when you get home,” says the store clerk as you’re wheeling your cart through the sliding doors. You get home and that receipt is lucky if it makes its way out of the bag it came home in.
Feedback is extremely valuable, it’s just a matter of capturing it at the right time and being able to address it in the right moment.
Penn Medicine is invested in patient feedback, which drives improvements across they system. Feedback is collected in many ways across the organization— directly from patient interactions with staff, groups called the Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFACs), and formal patient satisfaction surveys.
For example, Penn Medicine’s ambulatory practices (outpatient locations, as opposed to care received in a hospital) launched a new survey on July 1, 2021. It replaced a lengthy survey, administered by an outside vendor, with a nimble five question text interaction issued shortly after a patient visit. This new survey approach provides actionable data in real-time to medical practice leadership.
Initial pilot results have demonstrated a 100 percent increase in the response rate from patients, as well as an increase in action from practice leadership to address reported feedback.
“When patients receive their surveys a few days after their experience, the recall is different than when they’ve actually just been treated,” said Kyle Garrett, program manager for Surveying on the PMX team. “Service recovery — resolving any potential issues or questions — on the spot is so much better than service recovery three weeks later.”
Celebrating Stories of Penn Medicine’s Difference Makers
In addition to gathering feedback from patients, Penn Medicine establishes a foundation for delivering a quality patient experience through new employee orientation, customer service trainings, leadership programs that cover skills for service excellence in day-to-day interactions, and more. These efforts are all centered around the PMX Standards, which articulate the ways employees connect with patients, families, and one another.
The standards are celebrated through stories of employees at all roles across the organization who make a difference every day. Employees receive regular communications with PMX stories as well as stories that highlight “Difference Makers” — all of whom exemplify the PMX in action.
“Our employees connect with patients, families, caregivers and each other in amazing ways every day — creating relationships that enable healing,” said Stephanie Kindt, senior organizational development consultant for PMX. “Through PMX, we gather stories from across the system that exemplify the standards in action to celebrate those who go above and beyond for our patients. Each year, there is a focus on a specific standard, and we are starting to celebrate the standard ‘Empowered’ this month.”
One story featuring Claire Maggio, BSN, OCN, a chemotherapy nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, who retired in December 2020 after 38 years with Penn Medicine, illuminates how simple acts of kindness can impact the patient experience.
Influenced by her mother to become a nurse, Maggio noticed the indelible impressions her mother left on the nurses who cared for her as she battled cancer. “I got you” is Maggio’s signature phrase, reassuring all patients they’re going to be taken care of.
Listen to Maggio’s story in the Penn Medicine Listening Lab or watch her video to hear how she brought PMX standards to life.
What the Future Holds for PMX
The growing emphasis in the industry on measuring and improving the patient experience is already influencing the future of health care and will yield true partnerships between patients, their families, and their care team. Penn Medicine is working to remain in the top tier of organizations that prioritize delivering patient and family-centered care to create a stronger and lasting connection to those we serve in our communities and beyond.
The future of PMX is evolving; the new surveying platform is one way to further connections to patients in real time to listen and continuously improve. Sharing stories borne from the experiences of the care team, patients, and families serve as a model and reinforcement of the positive interactions and kind gestures that can make all the difference in the lives of so many.
When patients and team members feel listened to and trust in each other, it creates a healing partnership where anything becomes possible.