Stories from the Road

stories from the road

Last week I covered a lot of ground…only I covered it from the air. With flights to and from California, New York, and Missouri (where I am writing this right now), Delta shows that I flew over 7400 miles, which is about 20% of my total since January.  Spending that much time in and around airports, hotels, and taxis, I had the opportunity to experience great service even in moments when things didn’t go as planned.

Whether you travel regularly or have a summer getaway you too may have  some similar types of experiences. I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights and opportunities I’ve experienced in recent weeks. In each case that follows, the phrase was significant enough to me in my travel experience that a) I wrote it down and b) it made me wonder what the healthcare implication could be!  My hope is that you’ll share some of your own stories too – the good and bad.

“We’re looking forward to seeing you…” This phrase literally brought me to tears one night. You see, I’m not the only one with a sometimes crazy travel schedule at my house, my husband has one too. We didn’t intend to both have careers that we love in consulting, we just ended up there. After a particularly busy March and April, we figured out a way to have a weekend away in Carmel, California. I finally remembered to book a hotel – totally last minute – and it turned out to be a midweek gem. A night or two before we checked in, I called to ask if breakfast was included only to find out that not just breakfast, but champagne breakfast was part of the deal! There was such a nice kind woman who talked to me that evening, confirmed everything for my reservation and then added this phrase as she hung up the phone: “We’re looking forward to seeing you.” To this, I thought “Yeah, I’m looking forward to you seeing me there too!”

In the anticipation of some much needed time away, this simple phrase stirred up some emotion in me. And I jotted it down thinking, “How often do we say things like this in healthcare?” I know, I know, the average patient coming in for hip replacement is not looking forward to that surgery as much as I was a weekend in Carmel! But hear me out…what could be the demonstration of this phrase in healthcare? What if the scheduler, after confirming all of the details a day before surgery, said, “Mrs. Gray, we’re looking forward to taking care of you when you arrive tomorrow!” I’d argue that could have the same powerful effect on a nervous patient, worried about their pending procedure.

“Thanks for getting up early with us…” Fast forward from the weekend in Carmel and a few days in wine country, we were headed home on nothing other than the 6 a.m. flight out of San Francisco. We’d gotten up at 3:30 a.m. in time to get ready, return the car, and get there for the flight. I was groggy and a bit sad that our wonderful weekend had come to an end. (I’m a morning person, but not the 3:30 a.m. kind.) My husband had been bumped up to first class and I was sitting alone back in coach, feeling a little sorry for myself.  The pilot came on and deviated slightly from his script adding the “thanks for getting up early with us” before signing off to get ready for takeoff. Suddenly, my mood brightened a bit! He had, in his own professional way, acknowledged the fact that many of us on the flight may not have wanted to be there that early (and perhaps the crew didn’t either!). Now it felt like we were in it together, and he was thanking us for what we did to be there.

Again, it had enough of an impact on my under-caffeinated self that I jotted it down and have continued to wonder about what the crossover to the healthcare patient experience could be. Thinking back to my hip replacement example, what if the pre-op nurse added a phrase like this into their greeting and said, “Thanks for getting up early today with us, we’re looking forward to taking good care of you.” I’d submit to you that that would be a day brightener for the anxious patient who is NPO and missing their usual morning coffee!

So, those are a few of my recent stories. I have more, believe me, and maybe will get to share them another time. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you. What phrases and stories have you heard that may be from outside of healthcare but have made an impact on you? If you don’t have any that readily come to mind, do me a favor and pay attention over the holiday weekend and in the coming weeks. We find that some of these examples from outside of healthcare have some of the biggest impacts on staff and physicians when we make the connection to how they can apply in healthcare patient experience. I’d love to hear from you and add your examples to the list!

Janiece Gray

I began my career as a social worker and later, with my Master of Health Administration (MHA), directed operations at Allina Health in Minnesota. I later directed patient experience at Allina. My background and experience give me strengths in approaching healthcare opportunities and challenges through a systems lens – with unique strengths, challenges and activation points. My experience is also informed by leadership roles leading performance improvement in patient-centered care and patient experience departments. Working in the client role with healthcare consulting firms inspired me to address some unmet needs in the industry, and to co-found DTA Healthcare Solutions. I have a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and find that the discipline of practice translates to healthcare work very well.

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