Unlocking success through the power of Human Understanding

When elevating Human Understanding in healthcare, the key to success is simple: focus on people and build trusted relationships.

During November’s Becker’s Healthcare podcast, Jon Tanner, Program Director of Human Understanding at NRC Health, hosted two distinguished healthcare leaders to discuss the importance of Human Understanding in providing personalized experiences for patients. The podcast featured Shannon Hulett, DNP, RN, CNL, Director of Patient Experience at Gundersen Health System, and Casey Arends, Customer Experience Manager at M Health Fairview.

Here are some highlights from the podcast:

Using the Human Understanding Metric: In 2022, NRC Health introduced the Human Understanding metric (HUme), “Did everyone treat you as a unique person?” Gundersen Health System and M Health Fairview are among the NRC Health partners that have incorporated the HUme in their patient-experience surveys. Supporting this effort with intentional strategies to engage leaders and teams, these systems are now enjoying unprecedented increases in NPS.

After implementing the HUme as part of a field test in January 2022, Gundersen Health System’s NPS score grew by three points. M Health Fairview implemented the HUme in December 2022 and saw an NPS increase of four points—among the largest instances of growth of all the partners using the measure.

“I think it’s having a model in place to support leaders with clear best practices—kind of an ‘if-then’ approach to when they get opportunities in their customer-experience data, as opposed to a, ‘Hey, your data’s not great, what are you gonna do about it?’” Arends suggested. “It eliminates some of that burden on already overwhelmed and overworked leaders to make engaging their teams easier. It’s about how they want to put a best practice into place in a relevant and meaningful way for them.”

Hulett agreed that the key is to focus on people and get super clear on how Human Understanding brings value to them. “Share how it serves patients, drilling down to an individual level, as well as how it serves your staff,” she said. “All along, lean into love, trust, and authentic connections

Emphasizing Success Stories: The success stories from both Gundersen Health System and M Health Fairview highlighted the positive impact of prioritizing human connection in healthcare, showcasing improvements in net promoter scores and overall patient experiences.

Hulett shared a story of a woman scheduled for a diagnostic procedure on the birthday of her late mother, who had died of the same illness her procedure was for. As the woman reflected on her full care experience, which spanned a couple of years, she told Gundersen how her initial care provider had acknowledged her mother’s medical history and then provided different recommendations specifically for her. The day of her procedure held so much meaning to her, and she made it clear how special it was that Gundersen had honored her situation in ways she would never forget.

“We share stories to recognize the special and important approach to our delivery, to fuel more experiences like this to happen,” Hulett said.

Steps to Embed Human Understanding: Hulett outlined the steps taken by Gundersen Health System to embed Human Understanding into their patient-experience culture, including sharing stories that recognize special approaches to care delivery.

“Hold patience in one hand and a courteous persistence in the other,” she said. “The best outcomes will come from fully aligning and weaving this strategy deeply into your culture.”

Service Standards Alignment: Arends discussed how M Health Fairview refreshed service standards, aligning them with the Human Understanding concept. The standards focus on connecting with patients, listening to them, and partnering with them, emphasizing capturing and quantifying positive interactions.

“The connect with me, listen to me, and partner with me standards align perfectly with our refreshed service standards,” Arends said. “So it was natural for us to adopt the Human Understanding question in our patient surveys.”

Advice for Implementation: Both guests offered advice for patient- and customer-experience leaders looking to implement similar approaches, emphasizing consistency, ownership, and deep integration of Human Understanding into an organization’s culture. Both stressed the importance of focusing on people, building trusted relationships, and connecting with various departments within the healthcare organization.

“I’d also emphasize, to other organizations considering this, the value of using Human Understanding and patient stories to connect to people’s why for working in healthcare and interacting with each other,” Hulett said.

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