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Patient Experience: 'The Wisdom is in this Room'

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, October 28, 2009

Sonia Rhodes, vice president of customer strategy, The Sharp Experience & The Sharp University for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, tells a story about her organization's CEO, Mike Murphy, that will always stick with me. Talking to an assembly of employees about his vision of Sharp as the best place to work and the best place to receive care, he told the assembled audience: "We don't have all the answers or know exactly what it's going to take, and I am going to need each of you to help. What I do know is that I'm confident that the wisdom is in this room—that the people of Sharp have the creativity, initiative, and expertise to make this happen."

I was reminded of that memorable phrase, "the wisdom is in this room," at our HealthLeaders Media 2009 Marketing Experience event, held earlier this month in Chicago. In the morning session, Rhodes and co-presenter Gary Adamson, chief experience officer of the Golden, CO-based experience design firm Starizon, gave a wonderful presentation about how to improve the patient and employee experience at hospitals and health systems.

Tapping the experience in the room
And then they turned the event over to the room and the wisdom within. In one of the two afternoon sessions, Adamson and Rhodes led the group in what they call a "braindorming" exercise. Attendees submitted questions before the event and those questions were posted on 12 doors around the room. Armed with pens and sticky notes, attendees made their way around the room, posting their answers to each question on the doors.

Their ideas, opinions, and solutions were nothing short of amazing.

For example, one of the questions was one that many hospital leaders are asking today: "What can we do to stand out so that when patients need our services they will remember us?"

Among the answers:

  • Provide exceptional service—that is the best marketing.
  • Make sure you market the doctors—they drive most volume.
  • Ask your patients and staff—they will tell you.
  • Ask patients at discharge, "What could we have done better?"
  • Stress consistent competitive advantage message.
  • Implement consistent and concise messaging of what you do best.
  • Understand their needs and exceed them.
  • Market in a way that differentiates you from competitors.
  • Anticipate their questions and be consistent with answers.
  • Don't ask patients how they feel when they are laying on a gurney.
  • Do something meaningful, memorable, and unexpected.
  • Find something that patients generally identify with and follow that theme.
  • Put the patient first.
  • Personalize patient experiences every time.
  • Give team members "permission" to customize the experience.

And one of my personal favorites for its elegance and simplicity: "Tell them what you will do. Do it. Follow up."

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