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Confronting operational friction in healthcare

Healthcare worker experience

How operational friction impacts employee experience, and how to fix it

By Jessica C. Dudley, MD, Chief Clinical Officer Press Ganey

Insync’s strategic healthcare partner Press Ganey leads the US and the world with their Patient Experience transformation solutions. 

Operational friction places burden on both patient and caregiver. Through shortcomings of the system and processes, the patient experiences undue friction on the front end, and that friction is absorbed by the doctor. It’s frustrating for all involved.

When operational friction happens, somebody—whether it’s the clinic administrator, member of the care team, or the physician—must try to solve that problem for that patient. This creates extra work that interferes with their ability to do their job properly, layering onto the stress. This impacts resilience (initially as a decrease in decompression, but over time as a decrease in activation), which hurts engagement. Reduced workforce engagement is related to lower levels of patient experience. Poor patient experience further impacts clinician resilience. It can turn into a vicious cycle, repeating itself with increasingly bad results.

What we need in healthcare is a virtuous cycle. Unfortunately, the virtuous cycle is rare in our business, but it’s what we should aspire to.

5 strategies for confronting operational friction in healthcare

1. Start small, and go big

In order to deliver high-quality healthcare, we need reliable people and reliable processes. That requires investing in both people and processes.

Starting small means listening to the front line and breaking things down to the most granular level. Organisations must survey, engage, and enable front-line workers to speak up and speak out.

From there, clinic leaders and managers must feel empowered to share their collective challenges with the person they report to. That way they can get the resources and support they need for themselves and the front line.

2. Remember we’re all on the same team

Excellent (compassionate, connected, and expert) patient care requires coordination and communication between all involved. Operational frictions and organisational silos often get in the way of a care team’s ability to focus on the patient’s journey. But working across professions is what we all must do if we are to create a continuous patient experience that doesn’t lose information—and create frustration—along the way.

3. Fix the systems and processes

When organisational leaders use patient experience data to motivate their workforce to become better at compassionate connected care, they must also have plans for fixing the systems and the processes that are causing frustrations and limiting effectiveness in the first place. That might mean a realignment of scheduling, a policy change, or a process improvement.

4. Coach, train, listen, and learn

Coaching and training are essential as we strive to create virtuous cycles that will enable us to deliver the best care possible, as well as friction-free experiences. Whether it’s communicating with patients, showing compassion, or learning how to listen better, there’s nothing more critical than empowering ourselves and others to be lifelong learners. And the best way to learn is to tune in to the data, share the data, and act on the data to drive positive, sustainable change.

5. Act on your data

Data can reveal volumes about our patients, our organisations, our employees, and the crucial intersections between them. We need to break down the segments of the employee experience, use the data, and solve for those different segments’ needs. I’m hopeful that, as organisations use their data, they can more effectively reveal, prioritise, and solve those needs.

Read the full Press Ganey article here.

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Insync, in association with Press Ganey, delivers integrated insights and targeted, meaningful action that transform employee engagement

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