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Lessons from the Course: Using Assessments to Improve Patient Experience

December 17, 2015


Success on the golf course requires execution of four different shots:

  1. The Tee shot
  2. The Approach shot
  3. Chipping
  4. Putting

If you're anything like me, on any given day, you struggle with some combination of at l
east three of these. You want to improve, so you pay for a lesson. You find yourself in a room with 20 other golfers. The instructor provides you with a checklist:

  1. Move the ball forward in your stance for Tee shots
  2. Shorten the backswing on the approach shots
  3. Hit down on the ball when chipping
  4. Follow through on your putts

The problem? You are there because you struggle with putting. I hit wayward tee shots. You've always followed through on your putts, and my ball position is not the problem with my drives. We've received a generic checklist that will, perhaps, help only a few people.

Don't we take this exact strategy when we train our staff to be more "patient-focused?" Patient-centered care is not just about process and care delivery design changes. The patient's impression of their care is based on the personal interactions that make up their treatment episode. Those personal interactions ARE the patient experience.

Many training programs focus, not on improving patient interactions and meeting patient needs at the individual staff level, but on generic guidance and actions that each staff member should adopt. The result is a check-the-box mentality. If every nurse, for instance, writers her name on a whiteboard in the patient room, or every staff member ends every interaction with a phrase like, "Is there anything else I can do for you?", then you will have patient-centered care. When you complete these tasks 100% of the time, you will have achieved your goal. So why are we surprised when we see only modest gains?

As every golfer struggles with different parts of the game and has different swing faults that need correction, each staff-patient interaction is unique and each staff member brings a different psychological and behavioral make-up to the interaction. Each has different strengths and weaknesses. The outstanding diagnostician may struggle to connect with patients, no matter how many catch phrases she uses. The nurse with high levels of compassion may lack the awareness to recognize a patient's needs.

Until eacnurse patienth staff member understands these strengths and weaknesses, and develops strategies to improve how each addresses patients' needs, real change will remain elusive. This is where assessments come in. Just like the golf professional can use videotape to show a hacker his or her swing faults, a well-designed behavioral assessment can help the individual staff member to appreciate his or her tendencies. Imagine the nurse who is diligent and bright, but a bit low on compassion. Knowing this, she can remind herself to take a second to put a hand on a patient and connect - for just that second. That second makes all the difference in the world.

To learn more about how to build that patient-centered culture in your healthcare organization, check out the brief whitepaper, "Applying the Science of Selection to Hiring in Healthcare." And contact Select International if you'd like to schedule a demo to learn how our solutions can improve your workforce selection and development.


Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.