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Patient Experience – Leading through Influence

On Saturday morning at NANT 9, over 500 Neonatal Therapists stood and shouted, “I am the Patient Experience”. We got goosebumps as we took this selfie to share with the Beryl Institute.

What does this even mean? Let’s start with a little background.

A significant outcome of the changing healthcare landscape has been the growing emphasis on a value-based, pay for performance approach to hospital care. The translation of this is that hospitals are now financially incentivized to emphasize the quality of care and to optimize patient perceptions – which is about the Patient Experience (PX).

Patient experience considers various aspects of the healthcare delivery system- from communication, to safety, to hospital environment, and culture. Healthcare officials place a higher value on patient experience as it has the power to spark quality improvement from a system standpoint. For example, did the NICU staff discuss discharge and follow-up care details with the caregivers? A yes or no answer to this question will give actionable insights into essential aspects of patient care.

The Beryl Institute is a thought leader who is rapidly expanding the field of Patient Experience (PX). They have developed a patient experience framework with the intension of identifying opportunities for improvement in strategic areas.

Although PX is important to hospital administration, it UNITES all workers in the hospital system! …that includes US!! …it’s about engaging ALL players, as optimal care cannot be accomplished by using a silo approach to responsibilities.

The Beryl Institute recently published a benchmarking White paper: Improving Patient and Family Experience in the NICU: A Practical Application of the Experience Framework. The study utilized the lens of the Experience Framework as a means to illustrate the power of a holistic view of experience and to examine strengths and opportunities in the NICU.

That’s where we come in as neonatal therapists!

Because neonatal therapists are connected to all aspects of NICU caregiving we ARE positioned to influence patient experience – i.e. advocates of culture, communication, environment of care, and advocates of the parent/baby dyad.

So, let’s take a minute to think about our own NICU’s and organizational cultures… Ask yourself: “what improvements are needed in your admission process, daily care practices or discharge coordination”?

First, let’s consider from admission forward. What does a family see and feel when they enter your unit? …for example, do they walk through maze of “do not enter” signs into a sterile, chaotic space? Or…are they greeted with kind and empathetic words, instilling a sense of support and empowerment as a parent?

Next, Consider our “daily NICU care”. Do families receive consistent care from shift to shift, nurse to nurse or Dr. to Dr.? How are we doing with respect to privacy? Can a mother nurse or pump privately at the bedside? …or have private conversations with the care team? What about emotional support? …or regular daily communications? Do we have adequate pass-offs at shift change and parent involvement in care conferences?

Finally, we are obligated to ensure that families feel supported throughout the discharge process and even beyond. This includes all aspects of care transition such as parent knowledge of the infant’s needs at discharge. For example: a minimum of 4 wet diapers in a day, medication management, and having a discharge folder outlining follow up care by required specialists. How are we doing setting up the discharge instructions and providing patient specific reference materials? Is it electronic and are they up-to-date handouts?

Neonatal Therapists are 100% committed to clinical excellence and are naturally wired for patient centered care. We are perceptive listeners, strong advocates and often natural leaders. In our attempts to advance our practice there are a multitude of factors that can support or derail our efforts, one significant factor being culture. Sometimes we need to look beyond the clinical aspects of our care to widen our lens.

Remember Passion and Perseverance!

“Influence is not a microwave issue, it’s a crockpot issue” -Alex Judd

Call to action: How can you step up and positively influence the patient experience within your NICU?

Patient Experience Defined: