The Mayo Clinic experience

Patient experience for Mayo Clinic, the number one hospital in the world, is driven by front-line employees, as discussed by the Assistant Medical Director of Patient Experience, Dr Thomas G Howell Jr.

Joe Rath, a prostate cancer patient at Mayo Clinic, compares his hospital stay to a full-service treatment as if he’s in a resort. From parking attendants, cleaning staff, nurses, and doctors, everyone in Mayo Clinic gave Rath an unforgettable experience that assures and comforts him as a patient.

The “Mayo experience” – this is how patients at Mayo Clinic refer to their hospital trips and what makes them return to the hospital, remember it with fondness, and recommend it to others.

Mayo Clinic’s  Office of Patient Experience is comprised of five service lines: service recovery to redeem a patient who was previously dissuaded, improvement to address the weak points in the current system, research to support the improvements, training and education for staff, and customer relationship management to nurture relationships with existing patients and develop new ones.

We recognize that patient experience really lies with our front-line employees, Dr Thomas Howell, Assistant Medical Director of Patient Experience at Mayo Clinic tells Hospital Insights Asia. Just like how your assessment of a restaurant depends not only on the food but also on how the staff greeted you and addressed your concerns, patients rate their care experience based on how the doctors, nurses, and nonclinical staff treated them throughout their stay.

In line with its goal to constantly enhance its patient experience, Mayo Clinic supports its employees “to unleash their creative potential and manage improvement as well as service recovery at the front line”, says Dr Howell. Formal training, new employee orientation, and brief training are just a few programs aimed at helping the employees support the Mayo experience.

Another key strategy used by Dr Howell and his team is using the SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) model of communication and including an “e” in the assessment part. The “e” is to acknowledge the experience impact of any proposed changes to both staff and patients. After all, engaged employees can reflect satisfaction on how they deal with patients.

Sometimes, though, the toll of work stresses and other competing interests can obstruct the priority of giving excellent patient experience. Dr Howell finds that trying to keep the goal at the forefront of employees’ minds is a challenge in keeping the highest standard in care experience. Added to this, Mayo Clinic finds that managing complicated patient itineraries, for a huge hospital that takes on highly complex patients, can be a pain point that interferes with a seamless patient experience.

Yet, with the advent of COVID-19, Mayo Clinic finds that people can adjust really quickly. Employees who understand what the hospital believes in can be highly resourceful and creative. Likewise, the staff have received the necessary preparation and training on what to do in a pandemic from the hospital’s approach in responding to H1N1 influenza in 2009. Diane Baier, a patient who recently had surgery at Mayo Clinic, was all praise at how the staff assisted her throughout the procedure so she managed to feel calm despite the threat of the virus.

In essence, the first step in improving your hospital’s experience, according to Dr Howell, is starting with the big “Why”: Why do you care about patient experience? Why are you in healthcare?

These questions must be answered both by the organization and the employees, and connected to the values upheld by your hospital and the individuals who work for you. If you care for your patients and your employees share in the belief, patient experience can be raised.

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