“There’s no way for healthcare providers to improve the patient and family experience unless they find out what they [patients and families] truly want and need,” says Pamela Greenhouse, MBA, executive director of the Patient and Family Centered Care Innovation Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Our six-step process helps us drive change by looking through the eyes of the patient and family members,” she says. The following are the six steps for improving the patient and family experience.

Step 1: Select the care experience you want to improve. This could have a narrow focus, such as pre-surgical testing for a particular diagnosis, or a broad focus, such as improving all trauma services from the ED through rehabilitation, Greenhouse says.

Step 2: Select a guiding council. The council should have a clinical champion from the area you are targeting, an administrative champion, and a coordinator. These should be people who are admired by their peers and others who can have an effect on helping drive the change, she says.

Step 3: Evaluate the current state of the chosen care experience by shadowing patients and family members every step of the way during the healthcare experience. “Shadowing helps the entire care team see what is happening from the patients’ and family members’ point of view,” Greenhouse says. Compile reports from everyone who does the shadowing, and develop a chart that shows the key places and providers that patients and family members encounter.

Step 4: Expand the guiding council and create a full working group with representatives from every area that has an effect of the patient and family, starting with parking, if appropriate. Include patients and family members to get their additional input, Greenhouse advises.

Step 5: Write out the story of an ideal experience from the first-person viewpoint of the patient and family. “We ask the working group not to consider budgetary or time constraints but to aim high. We aren’t looking for small, incremental improvements. We’re looking for transformation, although the incremental improvements will come along, too,” Greenhouse says.

Step 6: Form teams to address the gaps between what is happening currently and the ideal situation and come up with solutions. Half of the members should be from the working group and half should not have been involved so far, Greenhouse suggests. “This way, more people will be introduced to the approach and the working group will get input from more people and the culture change will begin,” she adds.