What is the Half-Life of Patient Experience?

Hyperbole is defined as the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device.  I always thought that was simply how I wrote.

As November slides into December what was hidden becomes visible.  A large wooded area borders our property, an acre filled during the spring and summer with the songs of so many birds that if you sleep with your windows open you had better plan on waking early.  When I look outdoors during the spring and fall I see so many thousands of birds flying north and south that if I was a Monty Python fan I would ponder the migratory pattern of coconuts.

Anyway, the point is that there are a lot of birds, perhaps more than a lot.  So here I am looking at the denuded trees.  I do not see any birds.  I do see one bird nest.  Now this would not bother anyone else, but it bothers me.  One nest.  Thousands of birds singing and flying.  Where do the all of the other birds live?

You probably know that the half-life of something is the time required for a quantity to fall to half of its measured value from what it was at the beginning of the time period.  Its most common use is with exponential decay, like measuring the age of rocks based on the decay period of radium to lead-206.

Patient experience is the inverse of half-life.  The experience does not diminish over time, it actually grows, and with the right tools it grows unbounded, at least the bad experiences do.  A story of a bad patient experience has legs, and patients who had that experience do their utmost to get their story to the most readers.

Think about the most inane stories someone ever told you; the size of the fish they caught, what they really said to their boss the day they quit their job.  People, guy people in particular, have a tendency to add a flourishes that grow over time.  The bad news for healthcare providers is that once patients’ stories hit the web they multiply.

If you want to know how others view your hospital, much more information can be learned from Google than from CMS.  And the opinions on Google, whether accurate or exaggerated have no half-life, that genie is not going back in the bottle.

What this means is that the only influence you have over someone’s experience is while they are having the experience.  Once they’ve had it your chance to manage it is over.

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