3 Steps to Building a New Patient Experience and Communication Framework

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How do you lead an organization’s CX when there’s no blueprint for you to follow? Well, you make your own! In today’s episode, Lisa Allen, the first Chief Patient Experience Officer at Johns Hopkins Hospital shares how she combined her experience and knowledge in anthropology to change the way the organization addresses patient experience.



This is a great episode for leaders across all industries, especially those who are the first in their company to lead this discipline.

1. Get the Lay of the Land to Inform your Purview

Lisa tells that one of the reasons she accepted the CXO position was because she felt that the values of Johns Hopkins matched her personal values, and that was a very important aspect for her career journey.

Upon stepping into this role, Lisa spent time getting a lay of the land and familiarizing herself with the staff on board; she shares that she needed to envision how she wanted her team to look and function.

Additionally, Lisa looked at data, talked to a lot of people, met with leadership, frontline staff, and patients and families, to understand their point of view. After gathering the collective feedback, she developed a coaching model to help usher in a new employee and patient experience. It took about a year for the model to come together.

The coaching model is an effective and simple tool that laid the groundwork for improved inter-department and patient communication. Lisa explains that these coaches are assigned to serve various departments (surgery, neuroscience & oncology, etc.) to be involved with patient & family advisory councils. These coaches also teach and educate the departments on the various CX processes. For example, people will know to reach out to a coach for new staff member onboarding, to understand how to effectively work with patient experience teams, and to understand how to measure patient experience.

The CX coaching model at @HopkinsMedicine is an effective and simple tool to lay the groundwork of inter-department and patient communication. #CX #leadership #healthcare Click To Tweet

2. Connect, Partner, and Reflect

According to Lisa, her first year comprised of a lot of partnering, board meetings, presenting data and talking about action plans. She has seen things evolve over the past five years, and is proud of their new, trademarked, communication model, “connect, partner, and reflect.” So, whether someone is dealing with a colleague, a patient, a physician, or staff member, there’s a protocol for forming the connection.



The connect protocol includes introducing oneself when stepping into a room, being present, explaining their role, and how they plan to help. Partnership requires shared decision making. This phase in the process means making sure there’s a shared agenda and that items that need to be covered have been discussed. The reflect phase includes elements of teaching-back and talking about what the next steps are. It’s ensuring that everyone on the team is on the same page and understands what the goals are.

The coaches use this method with their departments to not only get to the problem but to focus on solving it effectively as a team.

Connect, partner, and reflect, is a 3-step process that employees at @HopkinsMedicine use to communicate with each other and with patients. #CX #healthcare Click To Tweet

3. Pair Human-Centered Design and Lean Management

Lisa explains how she and her team have paired human-centered design and lean to develop tools for the coaches to use. Through lean, Lisa and her team have managed to figure out the waste in the system. Where is time wasted? What can be eliminated and what are the downstream effects of that? Through human-centered design, they’re able to focus on journey mapping and the emotion or the experience of what’s actually happening. Lisa explains that by combining the two approaches, they think about any process issues that the lean team may need to address—then think through any interaction or communication issues that may affect the patient journey.

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

Lisa says:

“This takes time. That I liken it to a garden. You have to plant the seeds. Not all the seeds thrive. Those that you believe need to be replanted, you do. You continue to put water on it, and out of that garden, something beautiful will grow. But it takes time. It takes attention. Takes grit. Don’t become disappointed too quickly. If you really, really believe in something, if it doesn’t happen, maybe you’re not at the right organization. Sometimes it just takes longer than you had hoped it would take.”



About Lisa Allen

Lisa Allen, Ph.D. joined Johns Hopkins Medicine and The Armstrong Institute in September 2014 as the first Chief Patient Experience Officer for the system. Dr. Allen has oversight for improving the experience of patients and families throughout JHM by coaching, utilization of best practices and system collaboration. She has over 30 years of experience in leadership in a wide range of healthcare settings. She has published in this area and presents frequently both in the United States and Internationally.

Her team consists of Coaches, Patient Relations, Volunteer Services, and Guest Services. She has her Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology and Community Medicine, a Green Belt in Lean, and is a Certified Executive Coach. Dr. Allen was named in the Becker’s Hospital Review list as “130 women hospital and health system leaders to know” for 2015 -2019 and a Top 30 CXO in 2018.

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