Every individual is different, so that means respecting their differences and meeting their individual needs. When we talk about "patient focus," we need to focus on each individual patient's needs. It's not enough to focus on what patients need "in general" or "on average."
That's true when it comes to clinical care (providing personalized medicine when possible and when called for), and it also matters with the broader patient experience.
A Wonderful Example
I saw a tweet the other day that seems to illustrate all of this so very well:
Providing a disposal MRI-safe hijab meets that individual Muslim woman's needs. And, of course, it's a need shared by many other Muslim women.
This need could be identified through direct patient feedback. Unfortunately, if we only react to feedback or complaints, the first Muslim woman to experience this might feel horrible. We don't want any patient to have a bad experience.
The other problem with reacting to complaints — what happens when a patient who is disrespected does NOT complain? How many times might the problem be repeated?
We Need to Be Proactive
Instead of just reacting to problems, we need to be proactive. This is true whether it's patient safety or the broader patient experience.
When a health system has a diverse workforce, we need to listen to the ideas that the diverse team can bring forward. As part of a continuous improvement program, we can ask staff questions like, "What needs aren't being met for diverse members of our community?" and "What unstated needs should be uncovered and addressed?"
How can we create the psychological safety that is needed for people to feel safe speaking up?
As a man who is not Muslim, I might not be thinking of the needs of Muslim women (or other groups that I'm not a part of) when I'm setting up a process and the supplies that are ordered. What are the unmet or unstated needs of same-sex couples with a baby, or patients who are more broadly part of the LGBTQ community?
We need diverse teams when we are setting up our work and we need to draw on the voices of all team members when they see needs or opportunities for improvement. Some of the replies to the original tweet point to the high number of Muslim patients and staff at Mayo, so it's great to see their voices being heard.
Diverse teams would then help us, for example, uncover other dietary needs for certain populations of potential patients. What other cultural sensitivities or norms do we need to think about proactively? If we have a diverse staff, we don't need to rely on searching journal articles... we can ask our people and tap into their knowledge.
An individual patient might be offended by things that are done or said. They might also be offended (or bothered) by what is not done or not said. Either way, we can strive for ideal care and ideal treatment — as we do our best to respect each individual.
Value Capture can help you establish or strengthen a culture of continuous improvement. We are committed to supporting and increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Contact us to talk about how our trusted advisors can help you.