The definition of patient experience closes with a critical phrase. One gaining increased attention as people talk about the subject of patient experience. Those words – across the continuum of care – anchor the definition with a clear statement that individuals do not simply frame their healthcare encounters in single clinical moments, but rather across a continuum of touch points through which they engage in an overall experience.
A Continuum of Touch Points
For some, this experience stretches beyond days in physician or outpatient settings or nights as inpatients, to sustained experiences of care in the long-term care environment. It is in recognizing that experience has a wide reach and therefore a broad impact that it is important we look at the issue of experience and person-centeredness across the continuum and dig deeper into the practices that are impacting how experience is shaped in the long-term care environment. This impact touches on all aspects and services that influence experiences of those in our care. Everyone plays a role in experience excellence.
Expanding the Discussion to Long-Term Care
In an effort to expand the overall discussion on experience, we engaged in this conversation directly in a paper of this same title and from which these thoughts are excerpted (complimentary download information provided below). The paper and our expanding work in long-term care at The Beryl Institute acknowledges that while there are clear and distinct differences at the various points in the care continuum, there is also a much stronger connection than we might consider as we look at the efforts and concepts driving person-centeredness and the patient, resident and family experience. This has led to the inclusion of significant long-term care content as part of Patient Experience Conference 2015 and the engagement of the voices of long-term care in The Beryl Institute’s biennial study on the state of patient experience in healthcare.
Beyond Centeredness to Experience
I also want to address the use of language. This has been central to a number of my writings this year as the conversation on experience expands more significantly across the continuum. We must recognize the breadth of language that is emerging: from patients to customers and consumers, from residents to elders, and an understanding that family as a term represents a comprehensive collection of individuals that are not just directly family, but loved ones, friends and support networks. We chose person-centeredness as the common vernacular for the paper (and the title above) as it is central to the conversation today in long-term care, but believe the market overall is moving beyond the concept of centeredness to include such ideas as person-directed care and variations of engagement; all of which I believe are encompassed in the broader construct of experience.
When looking to the impact of person-centeredness in long-term care, the individuals interviewed for the paper revealed some clear and powerful themes.
- Reinforce the importance of personal choice: In a situation in which patients or residents may feel they have lost much control providing moments of choice for individuals has proven to have real impact on outcomes and health. It too restores a sense of dignity and humanity so central to caring for elders.
- Recognize the potential for true market differentiation: A focus on those you care for is not just a case of doing the right thing for the people in your care or realizing the outcomes for which you are accountable. It becomes a distinguishing factor in the marketplace that has communities recognize and acknowledge the value you bring.
- Provide meaningful opportunities for voices to be heard and active engagement: As simple as it is stated, how you involve those you care for in how you care for them is critical. In providing opportunities to engage as patients, residents or families creates a sense of ownership that leads to greater outcomes and more positive experiences overall. Individual involvement in case planning, or councils and other forums that help guide the direction of communities are all avenues to reinforcing a focus on person-centeredness and the best in experience.
Not an Initiative, but a Continuous Effort
And of a growing list of commonalities we are seeing across the continuum of care, there is one point that remains critical to remember in all settings. In healthcare, at any point in our system from physician practices and outpatient settings, to acute care and pediatric environments, to long-term care from rehabilitation to nursing homes and beyond, we must not forget the simple but central notion that the work to ensure positive and unparalleled experience is not an initiative, but rather a continuous effort requiring relentless focus, purpose, intention and action.
A Cross-Continuum Perspective
It is important we recognize the experience conversation is not isolated to certain segments of healthcare as the idea of person-centeredness is not restricted in how it can influence the delivery of care and the outcomes it helps to achieve. Yes, there is power in a focus on person-centeredness in long-term care, but by taking a cross-continuum perspective, grounded in the voices of real experiences from those both delivering and receiving care, we will have a positive and lasting effect for all. It a focus from which we can and should never waver.
Complimentary Paper: Download the paper The Power of Person-Centeredness in Long-Term Care: A View Across the Continuum. Use code: LTC_EP on checkout to download compliments of The Beryl Institute.
Participate in the State of Patient Experience Study: I invite you to participate in the third biennial State of Patient, Resident & Family Experience Study and join voices across the continuum and around the world in identifying the key opportunities and practices driving the healthcare experience today. You can start the survey here.