Patient Experience: Five Primary Drivers, One Common Theme

By Traci Hanlon, MSN, RN

There are five primary drivers of exceptional patient experience (IHI 2016). And relational competence is critical to all of them. Indeed, research confirms that higher scores on HCAHPS questions including relational measures such as “nurses listening” and “doctors explaining information” correlate with better patient outcomes and lower costs. In fact, a large study revealed that readmission rates could be decreased by 5%, if hospitals prioritized communication with patients. Imagine how much less patient and family suffering there would be as a result. For these reasons, hospital leaders are looking for strategies to improve patient experience.

Here’s what we know about improving the patient experience. Hourly rounding, scripted introductions, and hospitality styled interventions help in the short term, yet, such tactics are missing something big. This “big thing” is essential to every positive human interaction: relational competency. Mary Koloroutis and Michael Trout, in their book, See Me as a Person identify the elements of relational competency. Their framework is grounded in neuroscience and explains beautifully how we are wired to connect and why this matters in health care (Iacoboni 2009).  To sum it up, empirical evidence confirms an authentic connection between patient and caregiver fosters trust, cooperation, and a sense of safety. Koloroutis and Trout refer to this as a sacred healing space where the patient feels seen, heard, and safe (Koloroutis and Trout 2012).

Fortunately, relational skill-building is available to all of us if we are interested in developing it. The benefit of which is an ability to help patients and families feel less anxious and fearful, resulting in enhanced partnering, treatment adherence and wellbeing. It is truly profound, when people recognize they have the capacity not only to cope with illness or injury, but to also make meaning and discover their innate resilience during what often is a life changing event.

When everyone in health care has a shared goal of holding patients at the center of care and focusing on healthy relationships, outcomes are positively impacted. Now, there is compelling research demonstrating correlations between relational competency and improved patient experience, quality, safety, employee engagement and fiscal health. To achieve excellence, leaders must invest in advancing a culture in which all employees explicitly cultivate healthy, high quality relationships (Koloroutis and Ableson 2017).

Learn more. See Me as a Person Workshop two-day public workshop being held in Portland Oregon Oct 2 and 3 2017.