Part 2: Are 7 sigmas 8 too many?

The worst part about being wrong in public is having an audience.  Yesterday marked the eight-and-a-half year point since my heart attack.  I celebrated with a six mile run.  Instead of hiding my car keys under the bumper like I always do, I stuck them in the pouch of my MP3 case.

I was back within the hour and in a hurry to get to my water bottle that I had locked in the car.  No keys.  After considerable thought and machinations of my considerable cerebral skills I decided to retrace my steps; all twelve thousand of them.  Still no keys.  I called my wife and she retraced my route.  No keys.

I had apparently out-thunk myself.  We called AAA to get them to make us a key, and waited—two hours.  After several failed attempts Sparkie finally unlocked the car.  I opened the door, placed the palm of my right hand on the keys, reached across the seat for my water bottle…

The keys, locked inside the car right where I had left them.  No need to worry about missing any subsequent MENSA meetings.  My wife simply gave me the look—men, you know the look.  It is the one that means I will not tear into you now; instead I will save this for when I really need it.

I threw all seven of my sigmas at solving a zero-sigma problem, looking for a complex solution when an easy one would have worked.

Patient Experience Management (PEM) solutions are often approached in the same manner—sigma overkill—reengineering some arcane, one-off process without taking time to understand the real nature of the problem or its outcome.

In yesterday’s blog we drew a comparison between clinical PEM and non-clinical PEM (http://wp.me/pyKA6-Ih).  We also inferred that non-clinical PEM processes are not unlike some of the process employed by hotels.

So, what might be done to improve non-clinical PEM?  What easy wins can be achieved?

When you arrive at a hotel for an event or an overnight stay where do you go?  You go to Reception or to the front desk to check in.  When you leave you go to the same place to check out, or you bypass the process and simply leave.  You can do that because you have been a guest of the hotel.

Now let us look at the same process at a hospital.  Where do you go?  You go to Admissions, and to leave you go to Discharge.  Other than hospitals, can you think of another establishment that uses the terms admissions and discharge?

Prisons.

Admission and Discharge are suggestive of many things, but the feeling that does not spring to mind is the notion that anyone working at the prison cares much about inmate experience management.  Admissions and Discharge do not evoke warm, welcoming feelings.  They do not lead you to feel that your stay is in any way voluntary.  In fact, even ignoring that the medical vernacular for the term discharge is often used with adjectives of color—the yellowish discharge—the term discharge infers that you do not have permission to leave until you are discharged.

Ever notice the big open space right next to admissions?  Know what it is called?

The Waiting Room.  What happens there?  You wait.  It is a special, nicely furnished place designed for you and others to do nothing, prepared for you to waste your time.

Your appointment was scheduled weeks ago.  You are probably apprehensive and a little worried about what may happen to you over the next few hours or days.  You have blocked out your calendar to be there—taken off from work, arranged for a baby sitter, and arranged for someone to prepare meals for the children while you are away.  You probably needed someone else to adjust their calendar to ensure you get to the hospital on time.  The hospital told you when to arrive.  You are there on time but someone somewhere is not ready for you.

Did they forget you were coming, or does the very nature of having a waiting room infer that their time is more valuable than theirs?  The hospital is not only okay with the idea that you will be made to wait, they have preplanned it as part of the patient experience and built a special place for that activity to occur.

This waiting experience reminds me of my flight arriving at the airport only to find out that there is no gate at which to park the plane or no attendant to roll the jet-way to the plane’s door.  How is this possible?  Have they not known for the last several months that every day at such and such time this plane will be arriving?

So, here we are.  We have not even been admitted and our non-clinical patient experience is already negative.

Sometimes the best solutions are the first ones overlooked.

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