Mark Heston: Want to Help Patients? Start Thinking Like One

A couple of years ago, I participated in an informal study. The study centered on improving patient satisfaction scores.  During a three-day stay, the patient interfaced with an average of 64 hospital staff members. Blue scrubs. Grey scrubs. Green scrubs. No scrubs. White coats. Blue coats. Long coats. Short coats. Name tags. No name tags. People were entering the patient’s room constantly. These encounters likely sparked questions in the patient’s head:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you here?
  • Am I OK?

When a staff member enters a room, the patient’s anxiety level typically increases. Most of us have been a patient and experienced this firsthand. The difference is we have the benefit of being an insider, and we may not even think twice about why a hospital staffer is entering the room.

We took this study information and began a trial training program. We chose one patient care area that was inspired to participate and improve. The training included all staff that interfaced with the patient. They were scripted to introduce themselves in a way that would answer those three questions listed above. We also discussed using pleasant verbal tone along with non-verbal movements and actions.

It became clear within the first few days how successful this approach was. The patients were more at ease and stress levels appeared lower. Additionally, an unexpected outcome of this practice was the overwhelming positive employee feedback. Employee morale moved markedly upward. They felt empowered and gained confidence as a team.

With that, I challenge all of you to consider these questions when entering a patient’s room.

  • Who are you? Introduce yourself.
  • Why are you here? Explain your role and purpose.
  • How long will you be in the room? Be prepared to answer this question when you enter the room.
  • Am I OK? Be prepared to identify your supporting role in the patient’s care.

I believe this approach is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how we can improve the patient experience. We should look beyond the medical device or technology—and our vital role in supporting its safe and effective use—and recognize the person.

Mark Heston  MS, CBET, CHTM, is director of service, DCS, with GE Healthcare. He is a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.

One thought on “Mark Heston: Want to Help Patients? Start Thinking Like One

  1. Amen and amen. I’m grateful for your post but am endlessly astonished that the most obvious is the least practiced. Thanks for the reminder. Here’s hoping others take your plan to heart. I and other patients will be eternally grateful.

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