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Igniting Human Understanding: Jackie Stevens

Personalizing Care: A mission and a passion

It seems obvious that patients should be put in the center of the healthcare conversation, right? For a long time, it wasn’t the case, says NRC Health’s VP of Solution Consulting Jackie Stevens. She says the focus for so long was on the organization, not the individual.  

“My passion for improving the patient experience was ignited almost two decades years ago,” Jackie said. With her career at NRC Health spanning nearly 20 years, Jackie is passionate when she talks about her role. As a mother, sister, daughter, friend, youth baseball fan, avid traveler, and volunteer she says she—like every person—is not just one role in life. 

“We must commit to realizing we are serving people; we are not serving the diabetic in room 308. We are serving the single mother with three kids and two other conditions. And we have to treat them as that whole person and create a relationship with them.”   

Individual first. Patient second.

As a patient experience advocate and innovator, Jackie believes creating human connections between patients, care teams, and the communities they serve is critical for traditional healthcare providers and systems to thrive in today’s environment.  

“Patients come to healthcare providers for their expertise, but they also bring their own. To build trust, improve loyalty, and achieve the best outcome, we must bridge the gap and treat those we serve as people first and patients second,” she explains. “My life impacts my health, and my health impacts my life. So, I ensure my providers are keenly aware of who I am first, and my condition second. And my passion lies in making sure that’s the way care is delivered to every person, every day.” When the healthcare professional is “fully connected,” patients feel encouraged to share their concerns, disclose sensitive information, and ask questions, she adds.

Comprehensive and continuous listening

One of the obstacles to improving the consumer experience in healthcare is timing. Most provider organizations don’t solicit feedback until after the appointment is over. “The traditional approach is to measure experience after an encounter or after someone leaves the hospital,” Jackie explains. “Asking ‘how did we do?’ puts organizations in a reactive stance where they can’t do anything but apologize if things didn’t go well and try to make sure that problem doesn’t happen again.” 

“Where we are vastly different, she says, is that we start connecting with patients before they ever come in, to find out their unique preferences, joys, concerns, maybe where we’ve broken the experience in the past. We take that information, along relevant information the patient has shared about past experiences, and we put it right into their EHR.” 

She calls the approach ‘active listening’ and says it is at the heart of the NRC Health’s Human Understanding program. “Human Understanding focuses on everything that an individual is and how healthcare can serve them as a whole person,” she says. 

Admittedly, Jackie says this likely all sounds like common sense. But, she says, it really is looking at the entire patient experience in a whole new way. Today’s patient demands personalized care experiences. “We demand to feel known. We demand to feel heard, and we demand ease,” she says. 

Healthcare is personal

Evolving from measuring the patient experience with simple follow-up questions, to now understanding who the individual is as a person living in the world outside of a doctor’s office is key to treating everyone with respect and courtesy, she explains.  

According to Jackie, asking patients to assess the results of their care is perhaps the most important single step we can take to improve health care. “It will change the culture and mindset among clinicians and throughout health systems, ensuring delivering personalized experiences is at the heart of what they and not seen as a score they are chasing,” she says. “We all must work together to better measure the impact of care on people’s daily lives. This, after all, is the ultimate measure of success.” 

In every role she plays in her life, Jackie says she is an advocate, a partner, and a fierce supporter. She says the passion ignited all those years ago still drives her today to be a better listener, learner, and tireless advocate for positive change. 

The Igniting Human Understanding series shares the personal experiences and passions that influence and shape our approach to humanizing care.

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