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What is the difference between Patient Experience and Patient Engagement?

What is the difference between Patient Experience and Patient Engagement?.

What is the difference between Patient Experience and Patient Engagement?

I have been asked this question twice in the last 24 hours, so I thought I would post my response here.  Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this question.  

To differentiate Patient & Experience and Patient Engagement, I think it’s important to look at the goals of each.  The goals of Patient Experience are to increase patient loyalty, increase market share and exceed the Patient’s expectations.  The goals of Patient Engagement are to get folks invested in their own care by providing opportunities and structures for patients and their families to become active participants in healthcare.  The relationship is dynamic and reciprocal in nature, where as the Patient Experience work is more linear in terms of the healthcare organization making efforts to provide a positive patient experience.  Although many patient experience efforts rely on patient input, engagement relies on an on going partnering relationship.  


Patient & Family Advisors: Pro Bono

During the PFCC Conference last month I was asked if I, as a Patient/Family Advisor (PFA), was a “volunteer”. I responded, in kind, as I always do “I donate my professional services pro bono”. In my humble opinion, the PFA role is distinguishable from that of a “traditional” volunteer; however the pay scale remains the same. This seems to have sparked a conversation on a national scale. So let’s scratch the surface.
Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed. Defines Pro Bono (pro bono publico) “A Latin term meaning for the public good. It is the provision of services that are free to safeguard public interest.” These professional services are generally donated free or at reduced cost to indigent persons, religious, charitable, or other non-profit groups worldwide. Granted, it is most commonly associated with the legal profession, but a developing arena has been business/corporate philanthropy where one can leverage their professional expertise in providing pro bono services to strengthen community organizations. My role as PFA not only draws on my experiences as a patient surviving cancer, but it’s balanced with my 19 years as a business professional and all the education, training and empathy that come with me. Package deal.
What differentiates pro bono services from “traditional” volunteerism is that pro bono services are rendered just as they would be for paying clients. If the work weren’t provided pro bono, the beneficiary (hospital) would otherwise have to make a substantial financial investment to have it done. It is therefore implied that in providing pro bono services one should commit to the quality, timeliness, and professional completion of the role/project just as it would for any paying client. Often the PFA’s responsibilities differ greatly to better leverage the talents and/or expertise of each PFA to make the greatest impact as opposed to resting solely on the “traditional” volunteers’ availability of time. This may include sitting on steering groups, advisory panels, boards or committees to formulate best practices hospital wide. The standardized volunteer uniform is generally displaced for business attire to match the professional nature of the responsibilities.

Yet often the line is blurred and the PFA duties are intrinsically designated to the Volunteer Service Department and are ad hoc and hazy in nature. Many times the organization has no formalized Patient/Family Experience Department that can support direct reporting responsibilities and PFA training. I argue the need for clearly defined roles and mission statements are essential to the maturation of the PFA and the organization. Many successful organizations house their PFA responsibilities within their Volunteer, Quality and Safety, or Risk Management Departments. Unlike being an outside contractual vender; the PFA receives a formal orientation, training on organizational policies and procedures, HIPAA standards, CMS compliance, etc.
It’s important to note that I’m in no way suggesting that the role of a “traditional” volunteer is any less significant than that of the PFA. I continue to separately serve in the role of a volunteer as they (we) are a vital part of our organization. The roles are simply different. A genuine partnership is at the core of any successful infrastructure.
The role of the PFA is a sustainable position that lends value and impact to the organization. Its root obstacles are its lack of reach and scale. This begs the question should the PFA be a paid staff position? We’ll revisit that question another time. For now the big picture perspective is to lend credence to the role of PFA as a champion of patient and family centered care. I learned an important lesson long ago. In business, if you want to be taken seriously, you must put a professional face on what you do and how you do it. Always!

Clearly philanthropic pursuits, either “traditional” volunteerism or pro bono services, are fulfilling, empowering endeavors which allow skilled professionals the ability to make a significant, positive difference to any organization, health care or otherwise. This in addition to raking up valuable karma points while making your mother proud makes it a win-win. So call it whatever you’re most comfortable with. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Now, more than ever, patients and families need a designated, engaged, full time set of eyes, strong shoulders, a heart, and a voice.

Anthony White is surviving late stage IV metastatic head and neck cancer. This experience however, did not claim his life, but instead defined his life’s purpose. Anthony navigated an intensive course with over 370 hours of in-patient chemo therapy, 44 radiation treatments and 3 surgical procedures on his journey towards wellness.
Anthony currently serves as the founding and Senior Patient/Family Advisor at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and Community Liaison for the Cancer Support Community of Redondo Beach, He also proudly partners with noted organizations as an inspirational and informational guest speaker championing patient and family centered care. He is an active member of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the VHA Inc. and PFCC Partners.

Confidant & Comfortable Patients Engage

Confidant & Comfortable

My very first blog. Thank you E Patient Dave, for renewing my belief that I have something of value to offer. That’s really what patient & family centered care is all about, opening the door to patients & families to contribute value to their own care processes. As the mom of three young men living with mitochondrial disease, I didn’t have an expectation that we would be happy patients, to me that is an oxymoron. I did, however hope that I (and eventually the boys) would be confidant to contribute to their own care in a healthcare environment in which we are comfortable to do so.

Across our more then 20 years of experience in the healthcare system, we have encountered providers who have opened the door to us figuratively and quite literally, so that we could provide the essential information we had to contribute to care planning. Because we were partnered with our providers, we trusted them with our fears and our hurdles to providing the care the boys required. We shared our strengths and together nurtured them into the skills needed to meet the challenges of raising three boys with special health care needs.

Last week I sat in the background as my oldest son navigated his own surgical experience with a new physician. When he told me about his new doc, he talked about how he listened to my son’s desire to get back up and mobile as soon as possible. That he didn’t want to be out of work, that he had a vacation coming up and wanted to heal well. The Doctor valued my son’s priorities and told him what he would need to do in order to meet his goals. In return, this physician received the extensive medical history he needed to assure a safe and healthy outcome. The doctor opened the door and invited my son to be confidant & comfortable to contribute to his care.

Libby Hoy is the Founder of PFCC Partners and lives in Long Beach, CA.

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