Management expert Gary Hamel offers a compelling story in Harvard Business Review about how a health system in Michigan used the so-called "soft skills" to not only improve patient satisfaction scores but to achieve clinical improvements.
"Empathy," declares Hamel, "is the engine of innovation."
The empathy movement has been gaining ground in recent years, perhaps epitomized by Cleveland Clinic's powerful video series. Hamel spoke to the system CEO at Lakeland Health in Michigan who came into the role and soon discovered that things were in worse shape than he expected.
With patient satisfaction scores mired between the 25th and 50th percentiles, the CEO created a strategy called "Bring Your Heart to Work" and set a goal to bring scores to the 90th percentile in 90 days.
It actually worked -- Lakeland's scores jumped to the 95th percentile. In one anecdote, hospital security was ready to call the police when a despondent husband reacted angrily to his wife's terminal diagnosis. A junior nurse stepped in and hugged him. He broke down in tears and the situation was defused.
“Beyond the improved satisfaction score," the executive noted, "there was a clinical benefit. We are in the business of saving lives, of enhancing heath, of restoring hope. When we touch the hearts of our patients we create a healing relationship that generates a relaxation response, lowers the blood pressure, improves the happy neurotransmitters, reduces pain, and improves outcomes — for both the patient and the caregiver.”
There is a neat personal revelation embedded in the story, but Hamel concludes, "If you want to innovate, you need to be inspired, your colleagues need to be inspired, and ultimately, your customers need to be inspired."
Hamel provides plenty of leadership inspiration for management teams, and food for thought too. To read the full article, click here.