Becoming Your Own Chief Experience Officer

My client Linda is a healthcare executive in a mid-sized hospital. Last month, she brought me in to assist in managing care for her mother who was in the midst of a healthcare whirlwind: a fall at home; transfer to an acute care hospital for a four-day stay; transfer to a skilled nursing facility for a week and transfer home with home-based care from the local visiting nurse service.

As I was arranging follow-up care with her mom’s primary care physician – to obtain needed prescriptions and to make sense of the multitude of leftover medications that were sent home from the rehab setting – Linda turned to me and asked, “Is this really what happens when people go home? This is a mess!”

She’s right, it is. But what was so telling was that despite being intimately familiar with the ins and outs of hospital-based care (thanks to her occupation), Linda had no idea what happens to a consumer once they leave the walls of her institution – she began to question who was minding the store.

Trends in Healthcare

Most of us access healthcare episodically. Depending on a number of factors – who our primary care provider is, what type of insurance we have, what our particular health circumstances may be, etc. – we move from specialist to specialist and facility to facility as directed. As a result, there is rarely a single professional involved in our care who is fully knowledgeable about and responsible for the overall experience.

Yes, healthcare professionals often do a fantastic job with their piece of the puzzle. But when a consumer experiences multiple pieces of a puzzle (often in a single day), the good feelings that come about are often lost as consumers are left to problem-solve and navigate on their own. It’s easy to feel abandoned in the process.

With that in mind, and until this changes for the better, it’s up to each of us to become the Chief Experience Officer for ourselves and for our loved ones as we move through the multiple transitions that occur during an illness. Here are some specific suggestions on making this work for you:

  • Adjust your expectations. Managing this process for a loved one will take a great deal of time and patience. In most cases, it will have a profound impact on both your family life and work life.
  • Be present. As much as possible, be present during a hospitalization and a skilled nursing admission so that you can talk to the multiple professionals involved in the care.
  • Take notes. By consistently taking notes of conversations and regarding decisions made, you can accurately relay what happened previously to each new professional who becomes involved in the care of your loved one.
  • Educate yourself. Learn as much as possible and hold the professionals around you accountable for providing your education. Organize daily updates and expect they will be provided with patience and enough time to ask questions. Gain clarification about confusing items and outline daily and weekly action items to be executed by those involved.
  • Build a team. It’s hard for one person to do it all. Instead, include spouses, siblings, children, friends etc. Ask for help, delegate responsibilities and assign roles. Trading off the lead role with a team member now and then may provide some much needed respite for you.
  • Know your coverage. Read the insurance policy covering your loved one – boring as it may be. The Summary Plan Description is the official contract between a person insured and the insurance company – it is the language that will be quoted to you along the way. So read it, understand it and ask for clarification as necessary. Learn how decisions can be appealed.

During an illness, leadership is needed. And yet, in the beginning of an episode of care, it may feel overwhelming. Plan for the most complicated scenario and be pleasantly surprised that with determination, knowledge and the skill that comes with experience, you can do an excellent job as Chief Experience Officer.