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What you missed at the 2017 NRC Health Symposium in Boston

“It really is people that makes the difference. And those people are you.”—Steve Jackson, NRC Health President

This August, healthcare leaders from around the country convened in Boston for NRC Health’s 2017 Annual Symposium. They shared insights, sparked discussion, and addressed issues surrounding one of the industry’s most important challenges: how to perfect the patient experience.

Patients’ expectations have never been higher. They want a convenient, personalized care experience—and many providers are falling short. 48% of consumers, in fact, feel frustrated with their healthcare providers.

Clinicians feel the strain, too. Their overburdened schedules focus on bureaucracy and distract them from care. A full 49% of them report feeling burnt out, alienated from the vocation they chose.

These problems demand smart solutions—and the NRC Health Symposium is about exploring them. Healthcare leaders devised some important ideas in their own communities, and gathered in Boston to share them.

Below are some (but by no means all!) of the insights that leaders shared. You’ll find practical, workable tips to improve your facility’s operations, and to create genuinely human care experiences.

UAMS—how to deploy transparency quickly

“Across the internet, patients are either going to talk about us, or they’re going to be in a conversation with us. That’s what this transparency movement is all about.”—Donna Hill, Marketing Strategist, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospitals

Barbie Brunner, Director of Patient and Family-Centered Care, and Donna Hill, Marketing Strategist, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Hospitals, told Symposium attendees about an impressive achievement.

UAMS, an enormous academic hospital, implemented a five-star ratings system for their physicians, taking it from idea to execution in under six months.

Anyone with experience in hospital leadership can recognize how remarkable this is. Barb and Donna’s presentation discussed the careful planning it took. They secured buy-in from the C-suite, developed intelligent processes, and took proactive steps to defuse clinician skepticism.

“We set up a process that made it clear that we had our clinicians’ backs,” Donna said. “Without that, we knew we wouldn’t have succeeded.”

You can read more about how they did it here.

Practicing Excellence—engaging physicians in a patient-first movement

Physicians need a thriving community where our members can learn with and from one another. That helps them get better, feel better, and ultimately lead better.”—Stephen Beeson, MD, CEO, Practicing Excellence

Dr. Stephen Beeson showed how physician burnout and patient experience are inextricably tied.

Physicians, he pointed out, chose their jobs because they want to care for people. But 49% of them feel burnt out and disengaged, partly because they feel inadequately equipped to manage some of healthcare’s trickiest interpersonal challenges. For example, medical school doesn’t necessarily teach doctors how to share decision-making power with a patient, or how to steer patients away from medically unnecessary tests.

Dr. Beeson proposes a solution that gives physicians the skills they need to thrive. Practicing Excellence draws from a nationwide community of doctors who share what they’ve learned with each other. The result is a robust library of lessons that will help build the resilient clinicians of the future.

Visit the Project to see how it works.

McLane Children’s Medical Center—improving patient satisfaction in a pediatric ED

“Nobody ever wants to be in the emergency room, period. And that’s especially true for a child. There’s a nuance to consider when treating pediatric patients: it’s fear.”—Dominic Lucia, MD, ED Director, McLane Children’s Medical Center

Dominic Lucia, MD, recognizes the unique challenges that a pediatric emergency department faces.

That’s what drove him to improve the patient experience at McLane Children’s Medical Center’s emergency room. During the symposium, Dr. Lucia explained how his department achieved a 15% improvement in patient satisfaction—in just one quarter.

It all started with patient experience data. Dr. Lucia—with help from NRC Health—gathered feedback from patient satisfaction surveys, and shared the results with ED staff. They conducted short, daily huddles to discuss what patients were saying and exchange ideas on how to improve.

He also formed a diverse team of stakeholders, drawing from various roles within the department. Their job was to disperse information throughout the department and earn buy-in from front-line staff.

These initiatives paid off at McLane Children’s, and for its patients. This blog post goes into further detail about the staff’s improvements.

Cedars-Sinai—patient experience strategy

“As you move into this next phase of patient experience, you need to challenge yourself, your staff, your vendors to think differently. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions.”—Alan Dubovsky, Chief Patient Experience Officer, Cedars-Sinai Health System

Where other symposium speakers focused on the tactics of patient experience, Alan Dubosky, Chief Patient Experience Officer at Cedars-Sinai Health System, invited attendees to consider strategy. He focused on how facilities should make long-term plans to reach patient satisfaction goals.

Alan underscored the importance of fostering an inclusive spirit of innovation among a facility’s staff. As technology progresses and patient expectations rise, it’s crucial to have a variety of ideas in the organizational pipeline.

One notion that saw results at Cedars-Sinai: a “Shark Tank.” Officially called the MD/RN Patient Experience Innovation Challenge, the competition modeled itself on the popular entrepreneurial reality show.

Nurses and doctors were challenged to devise ways to improve the patient experience, which would be judged by a panel of Cedars-Sinai “Innovation Sharks.” 40 different teams, representing a large portion of the Cedars-Sinai workforce, ended up volunteering their ideas for scrutiny—and some of them are still in development today.

You can find more of Alan’s thoughts on organizational goal-setting here.

Don’t Miss Out Next Year

These are just a few lessons attendees took away from this year’s Symposium. In all, there were more than 15 presentations on offer, from healthcare influencers, authors, academics, and leaders from every aspect of healthcare.

Afterward, clinicians raved about what they’d learned.

“Excellent speakers and practical information!” said Joy Burch, Patient Experience Office at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio.

“Incredibly well done. Relevant topics/issues. I never felt like we were failing in our current practices, but rather were being presented with opportunities for improvement,” said Hannah Bianchi, Director of Provider Practices at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, Vermont.

And Charlene Sanders, Vice President of Quality at Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings, Nebraska, said that “the speakers were all relevant and fantastic! I had a takeaway from every single session I attended.”

Next year, you’ll have the opportunity to join these clinicians—this time in sunny San Diego. Watch this space as we announce further details.

It’s our pleasure to host a hub for some of healthcare’s most influential thinkers. We hope to see you in San Diego in 2018!