As we look towards recovery from COVID-19, it is critical to reflect on learnings gleaned from the pandemic. While there has been tremendous loss of sense of agency and of life, It has not all been bad. Care delivery, particularly office-based medical care, has been forced to innovate and adapt new models such as telemedicine, to meet the needs of their populations. While these changes have made a substantial impact on care delivery, they have disrupted standard tools such as surveying to improve patient experience. As in-person care is re-introduced, healthcare systems should continue to analyze pre-covid survey responses and reestablish surveying in general.
NEJM Catalyst identified five key drivers of positive patient experience and loyalty in pre-pandemic care: confidence in the care provider, coordination of care, responsiveness to patient concerns, listening, and courtesy (Millstein and Kindt, 2020).
To inform recovery and return to a “new normal” communication, care access and coordination, responsiveness, and staff team building were identified as the four primary drivers to make impact on care.
Communication is a key factor in building trust between a patient and their point of care teams. Patients want to feel heard; a need that point of care teams can meet by practicing active listening, being empathetic towards their patients, and taking the time to listen to what matters to them most. As we move back towards in-person care, staff should acknowledge that PPE can make patients feel scared or uncomfortable or muffle their voices. To improve this issue, welcome patients and reassure them of the safety measures in place.
CARE ACCESS AND COORDINATION
As patients begin to return for face-to-face care, staff should keep in mind that the risk of leaving one’s home can still be a stressor for many. In order to address these fears, one must communicate clearly with their patient what to expect each step of the way -- from the very start of their care experience to when they exit the facility.
Equip point of care teams with the tools to appropriately respond to new patient needs following the pandemic. Understand that many patients have contracted COVID-19, are grieving loss of life, control, and loved ones. Providing support to those who are grieving at this scale is new, so responding to patients promptly and empathetically is crucial.
Point of care and hospital teams face challenges recovering from the stress of COVID-19. Provide emotional and wellness resources (to address stress, burnout, and psychological hardships to name a few) that are readily available to support all healthcare workers during and after this transition.
As we transition into a post-COVID world, we should remember what truly matters most to patients. A great way to do this is through shadowing and asking “What matters to you” and other action-oriented questions to collect real-time qualitative data and drive change.
Millstein, Jeffrey H., and Stephanie Kindt. “Reimagining the Patient Experience During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” NEJM Catalyst, 24 June 2020, catalyst.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/CAT.20.0349.
August 6, 2021