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Review and reset your patient experience strategy in a COVID-19 era

Insights from the recent Patient Experience & Engagement Summit

By Terry Grundy, Insync

Ensuring continuity of care while maintaining patient trust is a big challenge for all healthcare providers managing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. From virtual appointments to digital outreach and new protocols — everything in healthcare has shifted. What we’re seeing, hearing and learning about patient experience and caregiver engagement is revolutionary.

Connecting virtually is not new to most people these days, but connecting a large group in this way has become a viable option for bringing 200+ industry professionals, speakers and organisers together (across multiple time zones) to share insights, experiences and purpose. While we cannot network together in person, we can participate in our own homes, board rooms or places of work.

That was the setting for the 2nd Annual Patient Experience & Engagement Summit conducted over the 6th and 7th October 2020. The Summit was coordinated by Bii World with Insync, in association with Press Ganey, a strategic partner.

Connecting over the two days were senior executive leaders, quality and patient experience professionals, clinicians and patient representatives from 17 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Japan, Australia, USA and many countries in between.

What brought us together?

Health care – at its best – reduces patients’ suffering by providing care that is effective, compassionate, coordinated, and safe. During the upheaval of COVID-19, caregivers have extended themselves to ensure that these values are intact, even while dealing with the stress, anxiety, fear, and financial pressures brought on by the pandemic. And patients and families recognise these efforts, as indicated by data confirming patients’ trust in their caregivers, even when the care itself looks and feels different.

Patient centredness and clinician engagement are core to delivering the safest, highest-quality experience to patients. That must remain our guiding objective, especially during a crisis.

This pandemic could go on for many more months or even longer. Patients’ needs are greater and different from what they usually are. Some changes in care models are likely to endure and are at the beginning of a period of active learning. That learning cannot take place without data to guide it and learnings from industry thought leaders showcasing their success through evidence-based strategies.

Analyses of patient feedback from regions with high concentrations of coronavirus infections are yielding important insights. The sharing of such insights and best practices from around the world will be critical.

That is why the timing and content of this Summit was so important.

The two days helped to equip participants with an enhanced toolkit of ideas and strategies, while at the same time allowing us to make new friends and connections. The assemblage of prominent speakers provided insights into how well leading organisations are mitigating patients’ fears, minimising communication gaps, and managing outcomes from the patient’s perspective.

It was indeed a pleasure to Chair this important event. Here we outline the key themes that were discussed and presented.

Patient-centred care

What COVID has taught us: all consumers really want is to be able to trust their caregiving system. They want to trust that they’re safe and they want to trust that people are going to pay attention to them, even if they don’t have COVID.

Healthcare is on its way to that, in part because it has had to contend with the coronavirus. Organisations are reworking what it means to do a good job, what it means to give patients peace of mind when realistically, they can’t. And that has required a change in how clinicians deliver services. Now healthcare is reframing what it means to take good care of people.

Caregiver resilience

The COVID-19 global pandemic is taking a physical, mental and emotional toll on doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and caregivers. The long work hours and limited resources are causing overwork, exhaustion and in some cases, compassion fatigue, not to mention balancing work with the concerns for family and loved ones.

As organisations plunge into this work, the key steps for leadership are becoming clear. Transformational change requires a holistic understanding of “excellence” in care delivery and a culture rooted in the principles of high reliability. High reliability relies on aligning organisational culture with a holistic understanding of excellence and supporting that culture with an operating system that includes a comprehensive data strategy to drive performance at every level of the organisation.

Organisations should not just assume that their caregivers will do whatever is needed. Rather, organisations should do all they can to support and protect their caregivers. Organisations should focus on their sense of physical and psychological safety. As we know, the work that caregivers and care teams perform in the service of their patients is awe-inspiring in the best of circumstances. During extraordinary times like these, we as health care leaders must use all available resources to support them in their mission to deliver compassionate and effective patient care.

What does the future of healthcare look like?

We have important work to do together as we strive to transform care by reliably meeting the needs and expectations of health care consumers and the teams that care for them. I was proud to have chaired this important Summit and to know that we all passionately share this journey.

Extended periods of uncertainty give rise to unanticipated needs and anxiety. The nature of the coronavirus pandemic has led patients and caregivers to look to health systems and their leaders for reassurance. Patients and families respect the commitment and risk that front-line caregivers have embraced and are relying on them in this time of crisis.

Understanding and meeting their needs with communication and transparency is essential, while re-designing the care that we provide to be innovative in it’s nature – but still maintaining the strong principles of patient centredness.

This is a critical moment and an important opportunity to build unbreakable bonds of trust with patients and families that will extend long past the pandemic.

I wish to sincerely express my gratitude to all the speakers who contributed to the Summit and made it a success, and to all participants for connecting and participating. I trust there were many take-aways that will be considering for adapting or adopting tactics and strategies showcased by these thought leaders.

A final, insightful observation about the Summit came from a participant, Amanda Byers, Principal for Insync Health and Press Ganey services in Australia:

“I was reminded of how much more alike we are, than we are different. Patients and families around the world have experienced the same uncertainty, expressed the same gratitude for their caregivers and felt the same isolation without their loved ones close by during their hospital stay. Healthcare leaders and staff initially grappled with the same uncertainty and workplace challenges to empathetically and responsibly step up and stay focused on providing safe, high quality, patient-centred care.

Despite the multitude of losses and challenges we’ve experienced, there’s also so much good coming out of this.”

The other thing that this Summit has proven – the world is getting smaller, we can all connect faster and more efficiently more than ever before. Please continue to break down the barriers that inhibit our patients getting optimal care.

Terry Grundy

About the author

Terry Grundy is a Principal for Insync Health, the Australian-based, licencee for Press Ganey services in the Asia/Pacific region. Terry has been partnering with healthcare professionals and organisations in this region for over 25 years, and currently oversees Insync’s support and management services for clients in the Asian region.

Learn more about our data-driven Patient Experience solutions

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