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Looking Inward: Community Health Centers Focus on Staff to Improve Patient Experience

Liz Boehm

Enhancing the patient experience in community health centers requires a fully engaged, supported, and empowered staff. The PEAC project produced strategies for lasting change.

A young child sitting in a doctor's office holding a stuffed animal.

As California's community health centers gear up to enhance the patient experience, they are discovering the crucial role of a fully engaged, supported, and empowered staff.

To promote innovations for improving organizations from the staff and consumer perspectives, CHCF established the Patient Experience Action Community (PEAC) in partnership with Vocera Communications. The two-year PEAC program supported eight California community health centers in implementing innovations and testing their potential to transform the patient and workforce experience.

The PEAC participants had varying degrees of success in driving lasting improvements in staff engagement. The program produced several insights into best approaches in the clinic environment:

  • Address staff concerns first. Sites where employees were most engaged in shaping the programming, and in which at least some of the programming focused on the employee experience, saw the most improvements.
  • Use tools to hardwire process change. PEAC participants that created physical reminders of the new approaches saw more sustained change. Improvements included a wellness room, signage, clinician worksheets, and patient welcome packets.
  • Capture both process and experience metrics. Sites that tracked operational measures were able to define their success more clearly than those that relied on staff engagement measures alone.
  • Build infrastructure to sustain engagement. Centers that saw sustained improvement had created an ongoing operating rhythm to engage staff. Initiatives included monthly staff meetings to address concerns and ideas, daily service huddles, and various improvement activities.

The complete issue brief is available as a Document Download.

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