Based on a True journey.
A friend, on holiday in Christchurch, broke her toe. Luckily, it was her fourth toe. Unluckily, her companions were one high-maintenance 4 year old and two suitcases. It was, bluntly, crap timing. Hobbling about, she headed to a clinic.
After a long wait, the nurse was brisk. Her toe was examined and it was explained to her that she would only get an x-ray if the doctor deemed it necessary. It was also explained that the reason for this is that the treatment would be the same whether or not the toe was fractured.
Waiting room number 2.
The doctor greeted her but faltered at her name. No, she didn’t have one of those long unpronounceable Indian names; it was just misspelled on the system.
The doctor laughed and shook his head, apologizing for his frontline team. ‘Sorry. Kiwis can’t spell. My wife is a Kiwi, she’s terrible at it.’
‘I know!’ my friend agreed, quipping, ‘Spelling is the only time I feel like I don’t fit in as a Kiwi!’ Laughter and chatter ensued.
He got down to business, examined her toe, and ordered an x-ray. He reiterated what the nurse said about the treatment being the same either way.
Waiting room number 3.
It took 3 tries before the radiographer could locate the injury, and identified as being on the distal end (top part) of the fourth toe.
Waiting room number 4.
Fracture confirmed, the doctor asked about her activities over the next few days, whether she wanted her toe braced or strapped up for more comfort, and offered her crutches. Instructed to raise her feet while sitting and take painkillers when necessary, she thanked the doctor and left the clinic.
Let’s look at this patient journey through the lens of our 6E Framework:
This was a simple journey, yet one that could be measured.
There were parts of the Experience that were long and potentially frustrating (waiting times) and parts that had alignment and clarity e.g. the initial nurse assessment, the first consultation and differential diagnosis by the doctor, the confirmatory radiological investigation and then the final diagnosis and management plan by the doctor.
There would have been Emotions associated with waiting times and administrative mistakes (data entry errors), but there was humour and there was reassurance. The doctor displayed Energy in his engagement – he conveyed empathy with the patient, and communicated the treatment plan well, he knew his purpose and seemed personally satisfied with his work.
There was sufficient time spent in Execution (radiographer’s persistence with protocol and multi-disciplinary assessment (alignment of nurse’s communication with the doctor’s treatment).
My friend walked away from the clinic, satisfied. She felt like an individual. She connected, in a human way, with the doctor. She could see the team (nurse, doctor, radiographer) all working toward her diagnosis. As a result of their excellence, she wasn’t very frustrated with the four (!) waiting times, her misspelled name nor the pain she came in with.
In this case, as in many others, Excellence was defined by the patient, not simply by the providers.
In fact, I don’t think she cared to remember any lack in the clinic’s systems.
To her, the patient experience trumped the patient process. Herein lies the potential for Evolution in the patient journey.
To find out more about the 6 E framework for improving the Patient Experience, feel free to drop me a line.