doctor closeup

How UPMC is Taking Patient Experience Beyond Delight—and Why It’s Personal

Pamela Greenhouse is a pioneer in the area of patient and family centered care (PFCC). Fortunately for us, she’s as passionate about sharing the secrets to her team’s success as she is about the work itself. When Dave Wieneke and I saw her present at the 2014 Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit in Cleveland in May, we knew she’d be a perfect fit for Delight 2014.

Pam took some time to answer a few questions via email this week. Talk about doing meaningful work! I can’t wait for her workshop and to apply the principles and techniques not only to my work in healthcare, but to customer experience initiatives in other industries, as well.

Pamela headshot

How might those not working directly with patients and their families benefit from the PFCC methodology?

We consider every person who touches the experiences of patients and families a care giver and they serve on our cross-functional working groups – including those behind the scenes such as marketing staff, IT, human resources, etc.

So first, they can benefit by bringing this approach back to their colleagues in care giving and leadership roles. But beyond that, this workshop will provide a different and useful perspective on end-user experiences and how to identify the current and ideal state of those experiences – no matter who you identify as an end user.

And how about those in other industries? Have you seen your PFCC methodology and practice educate and inspire people in industries outside healthcare by giving them a slightly different angle on developing a customer-centric organization? 

Our approach will educate and inspire people in any service industry. Service being defined very broadly as anyone with an end-user (certainly including for-profit entities).

I can’t tell you how many times it occurs to me outside of work–in a restaurant, a retail store, or on the web, etc.–that Shadowing and experience-based working groups would transform the service being provided.  We’ve seen it successfully used by Human Resources to redesign new employee orientation by viewing it through the eyes of attendees.

Our six steps can be used effectively outside of healthcare and we think that non-health care attendees would find the workshop interesting and thought-provoking.

What originally sparked your interest in patient and family centered care?

Each of us is a patient or the family member of a patient at some point in our lives.  So my original interest was personal and I find that is true for so many people who are involved in the work of transforming the patient-centeredness of healthcare.

At almost every meeting I attend, I hear personal stories and I hear about missed opportunities involving the experience of care–misses that are frustrating at best and dangerous or tragic at worst.

What is it that continues to inspire you and drive your passion for this work every day? 

I’m inspired every day by the front-line care providers who go above and beyond in caring for patients and their families, often-times under very difficult and complex conditions.

There are so many challenges in healthcare–from cost pressures to staff shortages to ever-changing technology–and I want to help make it easy for care providers to do what they got into healthcare to do, and to do it in a way that truly meets (and exceeds) the needs of patients and families.

In the end, we are here to provide a critical service for patients and families; they are not here to fit into our systems and structures.  So I want to flip it so that the patient and family are at the center and everything we do takes their experiences and needs into account.

My passion is knowing there is an approach that is simple, replicable, and transformative and I want to get it into every health care setting.

What are some of the key challenges that organizations come up against as they try to move toward patient and family centered care?

I don’t think there’s a lack of will among healthcare organizations to provide patient and family centered care, but I do think they don’t know how.

Our Patient and Family Centered Care Methodology and Practice is the how. Our experience implementing the methodology in every type of healthcare setting (inpatient, outpatient, pre- and post-hospital services) since 2006 bears this out. As does the experience of organizations across the country and around the world who have implemented the methodology and are achieving great results.

The work you’re doing goes far beyond creating delightful experiences, doesn’t it? 

Yes, indeed.  When we talk about transforming the experience of healthcare, we’re talking about much more than amenities.  While the amenities are certainly important (e.g., convenient parking, healing environment, no wait times, great meals), the experience also includes more “meaty” aspects of care delivery such as communication (Are my health care providers talking to each other? Do they communicate the plan of care with me in a way that I understand and can follow? Do they take the time to take my needs and goals into account?), access (Why do they require a separate appointment for each provider to evaluate me before I get a diagnosis or treatment plan, isn’t there a quicker way? or I’ve called several times for an appointment and I get such a confusing voice mail system that I give up before I’ve even talked with a live person.), etc.

What are one or two of the more surprising benefits of your PFCC work within UPMC or other organizations that you’ve worked with?

I’m always surprised, though I shouldn’t be anymore, at the energy and ideas that come from forming cross-functional teams of care givers to close the gaps between the current and the ideal state of each segment of care delivery.

Silos are ubiquitous in health care–functional silos and hierarchical silos. But patients and families experience health care across all the silos and across the full cycle of care.  Having cross-functional teams, and especially including front-line care givers, allows us to fix broken systems that one person alone or one department alone simply can’t.

What was your aha! moment in realizing that shadowing would be such a powerful and effective approach? 

My aha! moment was realizing that data points on a report are very difficult to positively impact, especially in a permanent way. Data points don’t provide the emotional connection and urgency to drive change that real-time observation does, nor do they show the root cause or solution.  Imagine hearing or reading a report about an incident vs. observing that incident first-hand. The emotional difference and the difference in insight about the problem are enormous.

Without ruining the surprise, what can attendees expect to take away from your workshop? 

Attendees will not only learn the six steps of the PFCC Methodology and Practice, but will get a chance to Shadow a patient and family experience in a very engaging way. They will literally take away the tools to transform care delivery in their own organizations, starting the very next day.

What else do you plan to do while you’re in Portland, outside the conference? 

I wish I could spend enough time to explore Portland as much as I’d like; it’s one of my favorites parts of the country.  I do intend to eat some great meals (open to suggestions!) and do a lot of strolling downtown.


  • Cassie

    delight 2014? Was the event three years ago?