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Lessons in Patient Experience from 'The Office'

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 10, 2010

By the looks of things, the fictitious Scranton General Hospital is part of the former group. Still, having limited monetary resources doesn’t mean the patient experience has to suffer.

"We do the best with what we have, which is not nearly enough, and although there is much more room for improvement, we measure up to the major academic-affiliated and resource-heavy hospitals," wrote one survey respondent, the director of staff development at a midsized community hospital.

It’s not uncommon to hear success stories like this one—hospitals in dilapidated buildings pulling in top patient satisfaction scores.

Perhaps the problem at Scranton General, like many other organizations, lies in the leadership gap. Our survey found a lack of clarity about who in the executive suite "owns" the primary responsibility for patient experience. Though the top response to that question was the CEO (24.5%), the second runner-up was "no one" (20.5%). Of the roughly 18% who chose "other," many wrote in "everyone."

The patient experience ship is hard to sail with no one (or everyone) at the helm. This lack of guidance could explain why Pam’s nurse was so surly or why Pam’s wheelchair transporter asked her to get out of the chair before Jim pulled their car (with five parking tickets) around.

Anyway, with strong leadership, creating an exceptional patient experience is possible at any organization—regardless of budget size.

There are ways to facilitate patient and visitor parking that don’t require a valet service. There are ways to encourage friendlier, more helpful employees. There are ways to improve patient privacy without embarking on a costly construction project to create single rooms. But I’m not sure if there’s anything you can do about a male lactation specialist.

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