I have a friend who works at a small hospital in the Midwest. In the pursuit of improved patient experience, the administration studied what made patients happy during clinical encounters.
One of strategies they discovered was the concept of forward-leaning posture. Evidence supports the idea that leaning in is associated with concern and attentiveness. So the hospital urged its doctors to lean in when talking to patients. If every doctor leaned in, they theorized, the cumulative effect on satisfaction would be big.
But what happens when every doctor leans in? Where are we when marginally attentive providers meet the new norm of simulated empathic behavior?
The attention brought to patient experience by The Affordable Care Act has started one of modern health care’s most critical conversations. But the response of positioning human engagement as an operational process falls short. While we can shape the mechanics of caring, there’s no Six Sigma solution for empathy. Meaningful human engagement is nothing like the process of improving ER turnover times.
Only when we break beyond the appearance of connection to connection will we begin to impact experience.
Until then, leaning in is all we’ve got.
Image (modified) via Eva Blue on Flickr | Details have been fictionalized to protect the innocence of my forward-leaning colleague.
And in case you missed it, There are 7 Things You Can Do with Patient Experience Data.