AHRA 2017: ‘Linking the chain’ between colleague engagement, patient experience

Tuesday morning at AHRA 2017 in Anaheim, Calif., Michael A. Janis, MBA, explained that imaging leaders need two things to truly boost performance scores: a positive patient experience and engaged employees. Just having one of the two, he added, simply doesn’t cut it.

“We talk about patient experience, we talk about colleague engagement, but if you don’t have both of them … you’re not going to make a big, substantial difference,” Janis said at the start of his session, “Making the Connection: Colleague Engagement and Patient Experience.” “Linking that chain will put some things together for you.”

Janis is the executive director of outpatient and ancillary services for HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham, Illinois, where he says his team has made “substantial progress in the last four or five years in the radiology department.” He kicked off the session by explaining the difference between an employee who is happy or satisfied and one who is actively engaged.

“Engagement is not happiness,” Janis said. “How your colleagues feel today or feel tomorrow really is irrelevant with how they are engaged in the organization. It’s like the Disney model when they go on stage. It’s about ‘I’m connected with the values of the organization,’ not, ‘This is how I feel today.’”

To show how poor engagement levels are for all workers all over the world, he then shared some recent data from Gallup. Just 13 percent of employees all over the world are engaged, the statistics show, and that number only increases to 30 percent when looking at all U.S. employees. Finally, when counting just U.S. physicians, the number does increase—just barely—to 34 percent of U.S. doctors are engaged.

These engagement numbers are so crucial, Janis explained, because even the smallest interaction with a patient can have a significant impact on quality metrics, and those metrics make a big impact on an organization. Leaders just can’t afford to have employees on their team who aren’t interested in being engaged each day and providing high-quality patient care. It’s an “uphill battle” for leaders, but one they must take on to succeed.

“We’re at the point in healthcare where you have to have the best of the best,” Janis said. “If you don’t, you have to work through how to get those people out of the organization. You have to have a conversation with them and say, ‘You’re going to make a change or I’m going to make a change for you.’”

The conversation then turned to patient experience, which Janis said can be improved by something as small as using language that is straightforward and easy to understand.

“Patients want to be informed and they want to participate in their care,” he said. “But it’s tough, because we’re talking a different language. Terminology that is fluid for me is not that fluid for the people I’m taking care of.”

Empathy also goes a long way toward improving the patient experience. By considering what patients are going through—the fear, the anxiety, the uncertainty—hospital staff can stay focused on quality patient care and making those patients comfortable instead of, say, the bad traffic they had to sit through or something that happened on their lunch break.

At HHS St Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, Janis and his team have seen disengagement among employees drop from 13.5 percent in 2013 to 0 in both 2015 and 2016. In that same timeframe, engagement jumped from 21 percent to 88.9 percent. The hospital’s I Promise initiative—which emphasizes respect, care, competence and joy—has been at the heart of that transformation. He also gives credit to the facility’s executive leadership for making the initiative such a top priority. The CEO, for instance, met with all 900 employees about I Promise and why it was so important to the hospital’s future.