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Top Three Ways to Enhance Healthcare Experiences for Families
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by CATHY RICHTER

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Going beyond patient care

When we think of healthcare experiences, we often concentrate primarily on patient care. There is a whole category of people who are largely being overlooked as healthcare companies work to elevate their patient experiences. In our article, Taking Healthcare’s Pulse, we offered insights into integrating the patient journey. But what about family and friends supporting the patient? Anyone who has spent any time in a hospital waiting room knows that there is much room for improvement. Creating a supportive experience sits at the intersection of staffing, culture and the physical environment. To help healthcare organizations address another vital audience, we’ve rounded up the top 3 family experience categories ripe for improvement.

Top Three Ways to Enhance Healthcare Experiences for Families

1. All Experiences Matter

Healthcare organizations must consider that an illness not only affects the patient, but the whole family. While some organizations, like Cancer Treatments of America, have incorporated family support into their program offerings, many other healthcare institutions still have a long way to go. It’s critical for healthcare companies to understand that they’re treating more than the patient. Family support is recognized for its essential role in the path to wellness. The entire family unit will come into contact with doctors, nurses, staff, and the healthcare setting. So why not ensure their experience is as top-notch as the patient care? Developing a culture of caring should extend to family networks of support and extend into family areas of the healthcare facility. 

2. Staffing is More than Doctors and Nurses

Family members will interact with doctors and nurses to receive information about diagnosis, prognosis and care, but there are other staff members that families will come into contact with as well. Make sure information and support staff is available for families within the healthcare facility when they need it. Extended staffing hours for information and support should be available to families, regardless of whether a procedure is happening at 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning. There are no fewer questions at 2:00 a.m., just less staff to answer them. Rigid hours and closing portions of the building while a loved one is receiving treatment is off-putting and creates unnecessary stress. Staffing should include family advocates or liaisons that are point people for families navigating the healthcare system.

3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! 

For family, more information is always better. Waiting for updates or diagnoses can be stressful, so staff should understand that it’s better to tell families that they don’t have an update than let them stew in silence. Healthcare staff should be helpful, knowledgeable and compassionate in all of their interactions with family and friends, and routinely update and check-in on them. Open communication helps families feel like their loved one is receiving top notch care and that the organization’s care and concern also extends to the family support network. Be open to feedback and take feedback seriously. Creating a culture of continual improvement should be part of the healthcare institution’s mission for patients and families, alike. 

The bottom line in a healthcare setting is that every staff member is a healthcare brand ambassador and every interaction is representative of the healthcare organization’s principles, priorities and passion. 

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