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When considering the idea of crosschecking, you may think of pilots working together or members of a clinical team jointly planning for care. Patient experience and quality and safety work can also be performed together and benefit from crosschecking.

For example, a Yale New Haven Hospital procedure area recently experienced sudden issues with imaging equipment that made it impossible to use a particular procedure room. This required changing plans for patient care to different rooms, on a different day and with a different care team. These decisions helped ensure the quality and safety of care, but could have led to a poor patient experience.

Luckily, over the past several months, this procedure area had been exploring the link between patient safety and experience and was able to maximize safety and still focus on optimizing the patient's experience. How? Through clear communication, service recovery and a focus on the patient's and family's needs. Service recovery, for example, could include a gift card and assurance that the patient would not be charged for the first, postponed procedure. This shows how a focus on clinical care and safety, as well as patient experience, can improve overall care.

"As we continue on our high reliability journey, it is important to develop processes that do both: improve safety and the patient experience," said Thomas Balcezak, MD, chief medical officer. "This includes finding and fixing issues that might affect an exceptional and safe patient experience."

Dr. Balcezak and Cynthia Sparer, senior vice president, Operations, and executive director, Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, recently launched this type of effort in the Heart and Vascular Center and Children's Hospital. They examined three months of patient safety and patient experience events that were reported via the RL Solutions online events reporting system. While looking for opportunities for improvement in either category, they found that 25 percent of the events had elements of both patient experience and safety. Those events, they realized, could have benefitted from collaboration between patient relations and patient safety staff.

To encourage that collaboration, they recommend that leaders from all clinical areas in the hospital:

  • Introduce patient relations and safety staff to one another
  • Have them jointly review cases they're managing at least monthly to identify those that might need involvement from the other team
  • Establish methods for patient relations and safety staff to collaborate on future cases that involve both areas

"We will develop additional tools to make this collaboration most efficient," Sparer said. "This is the first step to understanding how to best thread quality, safety and patient experience together on the way to becoming a high reliability, patient-centered organization."