Skip to content

Three “Fundamentals First” priorities that can differentiate a healthcare system

As technology-driven innovation becomes routine across the healthcare ecosystem, a human-focused approach can be a great differentiator.

During a recent Becker’s Hospital Review podcast, Toya Gorley, Improvement Advisor at NRC Health, and Elizabeth Paskas, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Patient Experience Officer at Hackensack Meridian Health, discuss how implementing a “Fundamentals First” philosophy can organically improve the patient experience and reconnect providers with their purpose.

To elevate the patient experience, organizations should adopt a Fundamentals First mentality. This mentality entails ensuring that patients and families feel welcome and respected, that their healthcare experiences are easy and consistent, and that those experiences are delivered in a way that engenders trust.

NRC Health has identified three priorities that can help organizations achieve those goals:

  1. Reconnect providers to the importance of patient experience across the continuum of care and every physical and digital touchpoint.
  2. Make human connections standard by ensuring that everyone in the organization has the skills and capacity to demonstrate concern, caring, and empathy.
  3. Take care of providers by celebrating them and freeing them up to do what they came to healthcare to do.

“Fundamentals First means recommitting to the evidence-based best practices that we know lead to more meaningful experiences for patients, families, and healthcare employees,” Gorley says.

Some staff may need a bit of convincing to embrace Fundamentals First. One of the ways that Hackensack Meridian has operationalized the Fundamentals First philosophy is by championing care companions. A care companion is a family member or friend who accompanies a patient throughout their care journey and who is not considered a visitor, but an essential component of the patient experience. As such, care companions are not subject to the restrictions and rules that typically apply to visitors, such as limited visiting hours.

In addition to providing comfort and company to patients, care companions can take on many tasks that nurses are often called upon to do—tasks patients don’t need licensed healthcare professionals to help them with.

“How many fewer falls will you have on your unit because someone will be there to prevent patients from getting out of bed?” Paskas says. “How many fewer call lights go off because someone’s asking for a meal table to come closer, or a phone to be charged, or for help finding the TV remote? A lot of [explaining the Fundamentals First approach] was about talking to the nursing teams and helping them understand the value that it had for them…so that they could then bring that value to the patient.”

Successfully implementing Fundamentals First requires involving front-line staff. Hospitals and health systems that are interested in the Fundamentals First approach should ensure that its implementation reflects the distinct realities of all providers involved in a patient’s care.

“It is [about] making human connection standard work [in a way that] outlines what that looks like for different people who contribute differently to the patient care journey,” Paskas says. “How do we help them make connections so their work is more meaningful—and meaningful for the patient, too?”