Improve the Patient Experience: How to
Do a Walk-Through of Your Services
If you want to improve the patient experience, start with this great tool. A Walk-Through gives you the opportunity to see what patients and family members experience when they come to you for care and service. Have your team conduct this walk-through in pairs. One of you should look through the lens of the patient, the other through the lens of a family member.
- Tell your coworkers in advance that walk-throughs will be happening. While they might behave better than usual, it’s much better to let them know so they won’t perceive the observers as spies. It’s a matter of trust. Ask them to treat you as they normally would any other patient or family member. Urge them to NOT give you special handling.
- Walk through the entire experience starting at the parking lot and ending with going out the exit.
- Go through the experience just as a child and family member or companion would.
- If they would set up an appointment, call in advance and do it. Pretend that you have never been to this provider before. Get directions. Ask any questions you might have if you were a patient or family member.
- When you arrive, tell the front desk person that you want to experience the team’s services, so you’re going through it as if you were a real patient and family member. Ask them to check you in as they would any other customer. Fill out the forms if there are forms. Wait your turn. Pay your co-pay if they ask. And so on….
- When you’re in the exam room, if the patient would undress, you do it too. Ask EACH person (doctor, nurse, etc.) to treat you just as they would a real patient/family member. If the patient would do a peak flow meter, you do it too. Experience every part of it that you possibly can without risk to yourself.
- As you proceed through the process, try to see through the lens of a patient/family member. Try to see things as they would. Try to hear as they would. Try to feel as they would. Try to think as they would. Note your anxieties especially.
- After each step in the process, before you move on to the next step, ask the staff member what they would change during that step to make it go better for the patient and staff. Here are a few ideas for probes:
- What was annoying at work today?
- What took too long?
- What was overly complicated or involved too many people or tasks?
- What was wasted or unnecessary effort?
- What complaints did you hear from patients/families/other staff?
- Take notes about what they say and also what YOU FEEL!
- Jot down notes about facts, feelings and suggestions. Afterward, the two of you (as patient and family member) should jot down the needs you found and opportunities and suggestions for improvement.
- Prepare to report (and fix if possible). If there are things within your power to fix, fix them. And prepare to share your results with your colleagues, so the team can celebrate the positives and discuss opportunities to improve the patient experience and enhance your services.
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