In patient experience work, there’s no “Silver Bullet.” But are you trying to keep too many plates spinning?

In a recent blog post, I argued that the problem of searching for a single, easy-to-implement patient engagement tactic goes beyond the fact that one doesn’t exist. Believing that a simple silver bullet strategy is out there actually stymies continuous improvement, innovation and effective implementation.

So if there is no single silver bullet, one might reasonably jump to the conclusion that a shotgun approach – implementing multiple solutions simultaneously – would produce better results. But that strategy has real flaws, as well. When I was working closely with the Experience Team at Ascension Health several years ago, we termed it “initiative fatigue.” In other words, teams were trying to launch and sustain so many different initiatives to improve care that they lost focus. It felt like the old Ed Sullivan Show act where the juggler tried to keep all the plates spinning without one crashing to the floor.

At the recent National Healthcare CXO Summit in Orlando, Rebecca Zuccarelli, MPH, senior vice president and patient experience officer for Tampa General Hospital, described a prudent strategy that provides both focus and the depth needed for patient engagement work to be successful. Her team selected one evidence-based, high-potential strategy to pursue with gusto: leader rounding on patients.

So how is their approach different than expecting leader rounding to be a silver bullet? Three characteristics of their plan made the difference.

First, patient rounding was introduced in a very structured, deliberate way to produce optimal results. Expectations for leaders throughout the organization were clear, both in terms of schedule and how patient rounding would be conducted. The team introduced rounding in a thoughtful, sustainable way rather than simply sending everyone out to talk to patients.

Second, while talking with patients consistently was at the heart of the strategy, it connected in important ways to other, far-reaching performance improvement strategies. Conversations with patients was an important means to a greater end: identifying opportunities for improvement and pursing them.

Finally, rounding on patients gave leaders an opportunity to model the behaviors and practices they expected from their team to drive better patient engagement. Conversations with patients provide leaders with critical insights that help them have more productive conversations with their staffs, offering both positive reinforcement as well as constructive criticism.

Pursing too many shotgun strategies can be as dangerous as counting on one silver bullet to improve patient engagement. The most successful teams understand the power of focus and implementing evidence-based strategies in a consistent, comprehensive, sustainable way to achieve superior outcomes.

Interested in implementing effective strategies for better patient engagement?