With patient experience becoming more important than ever, identifying and solving the obstacles that can stand in the way of excellent care is vital to the success of your organization.
Nurses, physicians and other allied health professionals are often frustrated by operational processes and glitches that prevent them from delivering high-quality healthcare. However, it is worth considering the issue from another angle; i.e., identifying obstacles that prevent their patients from receiving the high-quality care they want and deserve.
Striving to understand and quickly address these often overlooked barriers through some simple but effective strategies can significantly enhance your organization's efforts to achieve the Triple Aim - lower healthcare costs, better outcomes and improved patient experience.
Perspectives on Healthcare: Providers vs. Patients
We'll get to those strategies in just a moment. But first, it helps to examine in a little more detail how providers and patients view healthcare. Most ways of looking at how to succeed in the new environment of value-based reimbursement tend to emerge from the "hilltop" or perspective of individual providers and/or hospital administrators. This perspective tends to look at the challenges in mainly financial terms and bottom line impact; it focuses on such items as high readmission rates, patient failure to comply with treatment regimens, restrictive bundled-payment limitations and unacceptable lengths of hospital stays.
These are all very important indicators of success or failure in the new world of healthcare. However, they tend to rely heavily on results and financial outputs rather than taking into account the types of people, experiences and information that strongly influence the results. Focusing solely on outputs, makes it impossible to see the full picture that can help providers solve the entire problem.
This is why it's important to step into the patient's shoes and view the issue from their perspective as a recipient of healthcare. To the patient, a broken leg isn't just an inconvenience; it's a barrier that's keeping them from spending time playing with their grandson or being able to work. Patients tend to look at healthcare beyond processes and rather see it as an obstacle standing in the way of the lifestyle they are used to living.
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All too often, they see such challenges such as a lack of access to reliable transportation. They see things like the inability to pay for their prescriptions, physical therapy or supplies. And they see things like social isolation-a dearth of friendships and other supportive relationships that could help them get through chemotherapy or other complex treatments.
When providers and hospital executives all begin to open their eyes to obstacles like these and help their patients to proactively overcome them, the health of the entire organization can also improve dramatically.
Benefits of Empathetic Care
By creating an environment that fosters empathetic care through uncovering and removing barriers like transportation, affordability and social isolation, the relationships between patients and nurses, nurses and doctors, and doctors and hospitals, can all benefit in new and sometimes unexpected ways. Nurses can have some of the most profound impacts on patient experience and care, yet they are not always enabled to deliver the level of care they desire because of the processes and environment in which they exist. For example, in many hospitals today, it can be almost impossible for nurses to juggle growing workloads with being able to achieve the level of empathetic care they would like to be able to provide. However, by creating an environment that focuses more directly on solving barriers, nurses are given the time and the tools needed so they can offer more personalized, compassionate care to each patient. Giving nurses an environment that sets them up for success not only improves their outlook, but benefits all areas of the hospital - including the patient.
The organization as a whole can also see readmission rates go down, outcomes improve, costs fall, and patient loyalty increase. Staff efficiency, treatment compliance and profitability can all rise as the organization begins to achieve all three measures of the Triple Aim.
To cite just one example, the total costs inside and outside of the 90-day bundle period of a joint-replacement program at a major hospital located in America's Heartland recently dropped some 80 percent, from $60,000 to $12,000. Moreover, only about 20 percent of the healthcare organization's reimbursements came from costs under its direct control -products, nurse staffing ratios and other related hospital expenses. Fully 80 percent of the reimbursements came back as a direct result of the hospital's efforts to address patient-facing obstacles to care that previously went unaddressed, including transportation issues, affordability of prescriptions, supplies and other care, and social isolation.
The evidence is solid: practicing empathic care fuels a healthy organization that is able to provide better internal processes and a deeper connection to the patient. As it turns out, though, empathic care is what many nurses - and patients - value most, but experience the least of, in today's healthcare environment.
Back to Basics
By solving for barriers to care and changing the way people care for each other, nurses, doctors and providers can restore the empathy they displayed when they first joined the healthcare profession. Ultimately, they can achieve the Triple Aim through lower cost, better outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
Remembering that there is a person inside every patient, nurses, providers and hospital executives fuels more compassionate, efficient patient care. Being able to understand each patient as a person results in multiple benefits, including increased job satisfaction, staffing ratio adjustments due to efficiency gains, profitability to support staff increases, and an affinity for providers to drive more profitable business such as obstetrics or selective surgeries.
The bottom line, as I see it: changing the way people care for each other generates benefits for all stakeholders in a healthcare organization, including nurses, physicians as well as patients for long-term profitability and positive growth.
Jamo Rubin is the CEO of TAVHealth in San Antonio.