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Transforming healthcare into a system of gratitude and love

The past two years have been hard for us collectively. The pandemic isolated us. Human connection—so vital to happiness, creativity, and joy—was scarce or fully digital. Those in healthcare have gone through hell and back. Not only did the nation’s physicians, nurses, and critical nonclinical workers experience the daily traumas of a global pandemic firsthand, but those on the front lines have also reported higher incidents of rudeness, aggression, and hostility from patients in their care. While close contact with the virus put safety at risk, the pandemic also hurt resilience, well-being, and morale. I don’t think “burnout” begins to describe what’s happening at hospitals around the world.

The past two years have also been hard for me personally. I lost my sister, father, and stepfather. While my family and I still mourn their memories, I will always be grateful to Mary, Carl, and Melissa who cared for them during their hardest moments. They each delivered care with compassion, creativity, and safety during a pandemic that separated patients from family.

We strive every day to deliver safe, high-quality care to patients. But, at the end of the day, is all of our work making healthcare better? And is the world a better place because of us?

Patient experience guides us to create systems that support the expression and exchange of gratitude and love. Love is the bridge between patient and caregivers. CXOs must find ways to turn patient experience (PX) numbers into real connections.

So, let’s explore the pandemic's impact on the employee experience as well as its impact on patient experience—and the steps hospitals are taking to infuse humanity into healthcare and improve the experience for both.

COVID’s impact on healthcare employee and caregiver experience

The patient experience can’t be untangled from the employee experience. Even outside of a global pandemic, caregivers sacrifice so much to put patients’ needs first. But employee engagement has been trending downward since the onset of the pandemic—and workforce well-being has plummeted. Physician burnout, nurse burnout, and turnover among hospital employees have delivered a serious staffing crisis across the industry.

Press Ganey’s employee surveys reveal the top drivers of caregiver retention, chief among them: 

  1. I like the work I do 
  2. My work is meaningful 
  3. The work I do makes a real difference 
  4. I see every patient/client as an individual person with specific needs  
  5. The organization provides high-quality care and service  

Put plainly, these findings tell us that caregivers want to be part of an organization that makes a meaningful commitment to them and to excellence. Does adding PX responsibilities to the mix just feel like one more thing—another task you’re asking people to do? The best and brightest minds in healthcare are thinking about how we deliver experiences that allow us to connect, align, and explore. In the past, we’ve challenged ourselves to deliver excellence to our patients at the expense of our caregivers. We’ve underestimated the toll it’s taken on them. Now is the time to right that wrong.

COVID’s impact on patient experience 

The patient experience has taken some hits during COVID-19 too. According to Press Ganey data, patients’ likelihood to recommend (LTR) a hospital fell during the past two years across all settings. Inpatient care, in particular, has been constrained by the pandemic. At the same time, the relationships patients have with their caregivers have never been stronger. Their gratitude toward caregivers is overwhelming.

How can we use patient experience as a system of gratitude and love?

The priority of caregivers everywhere is delivering compassionate, connected care to patients. At the heart of care is real human connection.

PX is the pipeline bringing fulfillment, love, gratitude, and kindness to the forefront of hospital boardrooms and making organizations focused on human connection. And delivering on this connection is a key indicator and driver of employee retention. PX leaders must turn the numbers into genuine connection.

Two Press Ganey clients have gone above and beyond in using PX as a system of love: Vidant Health and Penn Medicine. 

  • Vidant Health: Vidant looked for an organization-wide KPI that lifted and celebrated the love that caregivers show their patients—and that excited and engaged caregivers. They got rid of LTR and instead set a goal to boost the percentage of positive patient comments from 83% to 85%.  
  • Penn Medicine: Penn wanted to bring a bit more humanity into the experience. Inspired by NPR's StoryCorps, they created a “listening lab” that connects patients and caregivers across teams to talk about care and their experiences—turning PX numbers and comments into connection and narratives.

The future of patient experience and employee experience feedback

Thinking about what matters most in experience, how do we design systems and processes grounded in patient and employee feedback for the future? How do we make the experience of care as easy as humanly possible? Healthcare leaders must embrace the truth: We need to design the future not just for patients, but with them. We need to create listening structures that lean into the patient as a human being and ask questions that measure emotion.  

In the new era of patient surveys, we’ve thrown across-the-board standardization out the window. Hospitals no longer need to be wedded to the one-size-fits-all survey. Press Ganey’s dynamic surveys let you customize the items you want to get to the bottom of. Create questions yourself or choose from our library. Randomize the list of questions to maximize data coming in while minimizing survey fatigue. Add rotating custom questions that get to the heart of any issue at any point in time. Agility and flexibility reign in this new era—and can deliver deeper, more actionable insights than ever. 

To revisit the question: Is the world a better place because of our work? Today, at Press Ganey, I can confidently say yes. We are building systems of love in healthcare. We are healing people and enriching their lives. We are leading with kindness. And we are showing caregivers the tangible and intangible results of their purposeful work. 

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “To inspire people, don’t show them your superpowers. Show them theirs.” As experience leaders, our #1 charge is to inspire our organization with the care they deliver every day. We can’t wait. It’s imperative that we connect those providing care to the gratitude that’s overpouring from patients, because love is a two-way street. 

Thank you for joining Press Ganey on this journey, as we collectively transform the experience of care for the better. For more information about how we can partner in this mission, I urge you to reach out to a member of my team.

About the author

Chrissy collaborates with teams across Press Ganey to design, develop, and deliver strategies to boost patient experience that are informed by over 400 million patient voices. Chrissy works closely with healthcare organizations nationwide as a strategic and operational partner. Chrissy brings over 30 years of expertise in advancing the patient experience and building an engaging and collaborative culture. Frequently called upon as a guest speaker, she is widely recognized for her pioneering work in healthcare consumerism and physician performance data transparency.

Profile Photo of Chrissy Daniels