Creating a NEW Patient Experience…Nurses MUST Lead the Way!

Updated on April 30, 2015

Jeff TobeBy Jeff Tobe

Why is Starbucks so successful in selling you a $4.00 cup of coffee when MacDonald’s charges $2.00? Why does a stay at a Ritz Carlton hotel seem much different than at a stay at the Holiday Inn? Most people today would answer that it’s all about ‘customer service’ when, in fact, they would be wrong!  Both MacDonald’s and Holiday Inn offer incredible customer service.  What Starbuck’s and Ritz Carlton understand is that it is about the customer EXPERIENCE!

Patient “experience” has become the new buzz word in the nursing profession and I am not sure that most health care organizations really understand it.  ‘Service’ is what you offer your patients everyday as a trained professional; it is personal and it comes from the heart.  Patient ‘experience’ is about considering our patients’ experiences from the minute they make contact with our organization until the minute they are done.  This involves so many more people than just you. 

Those organizations who purposefully examine every patient touch point—those opportunities we have to touch the patient from the parking attendant, to admission, to patient transportation to billing and many more—are those who will excel at the patient experience. By driving the message of the experience through every department, people realize that, no matter their title or contribution—part time or full time—they are part of the patient experience, they start to become more engaged.  A 2013 study conducted by the Gallop organization, found that only 50% of Americans were engaged at what they do every day.  That means that 50% of Americans come to work for a pay check or for the security.  By having everyone consider their specific patient touch point and how they can better that one experience, they automatically become more engaged at what they do and ultimately, the patient is the one who benefits.

The experience has to start with nursing professionals.  Because of your influence and because you touch so many different people at so many levels of the organization, you have to step up to the plate as the leader you are.  It starts with you getting as many people as you can, walking around asking, “What is the (fill in the name of your organization here) experience?”  Then, figure out how to shatter the stereotype of the experience patients EXPECT to have with you, your department or with your organization.  Ask yourself, “What small touch point could I focus on this week, that will ultimately shatter that stereotype?”

Imagine going to a new restaurant that has been touted as the best in town.  You arrive at 7:50 for an 8pm reservation and are seated right on time. You go on to have the best service and possibly the best food you have ever eaten.  At one point, the chef comes out to your table and explains how each of your dishes was prepared.  The manager checks on you a few times.  It is perfect.  After dinner, you proceed to go outside, you proffer your parking ticket to the car valet and FIFTY FIVE MINUTES later your car arrives!  Isn’t that part of the overall experience?  Of course it is.  But, let’s take this to the next step.  It is now 3 months later and you have told hundreds of people to go to that new restaurant because the food is amazing and the service is outstanding.  Then, you finish with one word. BUT!  “…BUT your car will take forever to get to you after dinner.”  I think my next book’s title should be, “What Comes After the But?”

 What’s this got to do with the nursing profession?  Everything!  The minute we get our people asking “What comes after the but” is the minute we start to become 100% patient-centric.  “The nurses were incredible but, the cafeteria is just filthy”.  “My husband was given wonderful care and attention but, admissions took so long”. We need to examine the touch points mentioned earlier and imagine what the patient might say.  To start to make a shift from service to experience, begin by examining those touch points and see the world through THEIR eyes not yours.

Certified Speaking Professional Jeff Tobe speaks, consults and trains with healthcare organizations around the world in designing and implementing the ideal patient experience.  His newest book, “ANTICIPATE: Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do”, is a hot business book.  Jeff was chosen as one of the top 15 speakers in North America by readers of Meetings & Conventions magazine.  For more information, visit or call 412-759-5319.

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