Lake Wobegon & Three Years of Exceptional Patient Experience
Apr 1, 2016 12:00 AM
Listening to the voice of Garrison Keillor describe Lake Wobegon, "where everyone is above average," reminds me of our exceptional patient journey at the University of Utah health system.
In 2008, when my predecessor A. Lorris Betz, MD, PhD, challenged the organization to deliver not just a good- but rather an exceptional- patient experience, it must have felt to our university health system like an insurmountable goal.
At the time, our hospital ranked only in the 34th percentile in overall patient satisfaction—66% of health care systems across the nation were delivering more satisfactory care. Our health care system was large and complex—as it remains today—with many different people and services touching each and every patient. The enormity of the challenge to improve must have felt daunting. And yet, as caregivers in our health system put themselves in a patient’s or family member’s shoes to experience our services through their eyes, the task of improving the way we delivered care to our patients became a tangible and personal problem to solve.
We rolled up our sleeves and systematically—though sometimes that system was trial and error—we tackled the challenge. We experimented. We rewarded success. And we encouraged groups to try new approaches, to caring for our patients—from the moment they contacted us, to the moment their episode of care ended.
At University Neuropsychiatric Institute, the care teams developed a "Hi, Goodbye, Manage Up" program in which caregivers would follow a series of steps to establish trust and relationships with patients—establishing a personal connection with patients at the beginning or end of a shift or consult, close their shift with a sincere goodbye, and introduce a new caregiver on a shift change. At the Huntsman Cancer Institute, leaders met with each physician and her or his team—nurses, front desk and medical assistant staff—to emphasize a team approach to improving patient satisfaction. Residents were engaged in a culture of continuously improving patient experience as part of their baseline trainings. We measured, we improved, and we compared our outcomes across the institution at regular intervals for several years.
Finally, we took the bold and unprecedented step of posting our patient satisfaction scores online, in December 2012. We led the nation with this transparency. As of this past year, hosts of other systems have followed suit.
Since then, our providers have ranked among the very best in the nation. In fact, we’ve officially exceeded the Lake Wobegon threshold. At the University of Utah, about half of all our established providers are not just above average, they are in the top 10 percentile in the country, and half of those are in the top 1%. For three years in a row.
We’ve shared our story in the Academic Medicine and in Harvard Business Review and have inspired a host of other systems to follow suit. Yet the most important outcome of our efforts to exceed both the Lake Wobegon threshold and our patients’ expectations: we began listening to our patients much more closely and as a result, we are building a more patient-centered system that is powered by our patients' definitions of value.
Surely, with our patients' engagement, the best is yet to come.comments powered by Disqus