A Powerful Model For Better Patient Experience & Healthcare

Patient experience has a long way to go in many medical offices

Patient experience has a long way to go in many medical offices (Photo by Vicki Timman on Flickr)

Patient Experience is Often Frustrating for Doctors, Staff & Patients

The American, Canadian and European health care systems all have their advantages and drawbacks. I’m not about to wade into an Obamacare debate, but here’s a model being tried in a few places that really seems to improve patient experience, as well as the experiences of doctors, their staff, and allied health professionals. It also has customer experience lessons that can benefit all of us, regardless of industry. 

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Today’s interview is with Doug Craig, General Manager of the Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network. The network he runs lets doctors expand their clinics to offer related on-site health services such as access to nurses, behavior consultants, dietitians, exercise programs, respiratory therapists, and social workers. The goal is to lower the risk of people developing health problems and to improve chronic disease management.

Who Benefits?

It’s a win for all concerned:

  • Doctors can be more efficient with their time, focusing only on the things that actually need their level of expertise. By being able to easily get related services and counselling for patients, their time is freed up to take on more patients and shorten waiting lists.
  • Patients get better care by being able to access all these other services. It can also be easier to get in to see their doctor when that’s who is really needed.
  • Related health care professionals and counselors love it because they have much more flexibility, don’t have to find their own clients or work in a hospital, but do get to work in a supportive team environment.
  • The health care system benefits because it avoids costly hospital care for patients with complex needs, and it lowers the risk of more people developing chronic conditions like diabetes.

Patient Experience is Linked to Employee Experience

Happier staff = Happier Patients (photo by Walt Stoneburner, Flickr)

Happier staff = Happier Patients (photo by Walt Stoneburner, Flickr)

The Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network has won several best employer awards. As we’ve noted many times on this blog (and in my upcoming book, PeopleShock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule), happy employees are essential if you want happy customers. In this case, the customers are patients.

The things they’ve done to create happy staff can apply to any workplace:

Hire for personality; train for skills

Yes, medical professionals have to be licensed to practice their profession, but Craig explains that they soon realized it was more important to focus on personality in hiring than looking for a specific clinical skill set. Even the orientation process now focuses more on teamwork and relationship-building skills rather than just clinical skills.

Trust your staff

In this case, staff are hired centrally by the Primary Care Network, but they work in medical clinics all over the city. So there is no way to do close, daily supervision. Many of their clinicians came from a hospital environment where they chafed under tight supervision, so this was a fantastic change for them.

Trust your colleagues to do what’s right in the moment

There are overlaps among the professionals, and sometimes it is more important to give the patient the support they need right away than to refer them to a colleague. For example, a patient who is feeling low can get some immediate counselling from almost any of the professionals in the clinic. While they might set up an appointment for more in-depth counselling with someone who specializes in mental health, in-the-moment help from the nurse, the exercise specialist, or whoever else they are seeing that day can really help.

This approach meant, though, that staff had to learn to accept more fluid boundaries among the specialties. No turf wars allowed.

Managers spend time on the front line

Every team supervisor has to spend at least one day a week working in their specialty at a clinic, so they don’t lose touch with what those they manage are experiencing.

Continuous improvement

As Craig put it,

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