HART Director Ali Poorani presents the opening session, "Leading Expectations," at the Patient Experience Academy.

The patient experience

Academy expands collaboration between health care and hospitality


3:25 p.m., July 22, 2015--This summer the Patient Experience Academy is teaching a growing number of medical employees in Delaware how to use hospitality industry expertise to provide the best customer service to patients. 

This program, made possible by a partnership between the University of Delaware’s Hospitality Associates for Research and Training (HART) and Christiana Care Health System with support from the Unidel Foundation, aims to effectively respond to patient needs and deliver outstanding patient experience and engagement to thousands of Christiana Care Health System clients.

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The program has now expanded its scope to include site managers and supervisors of practices within Christiana Care’s Medical Group.

“This round of the program included the management team to provide the crucial leadership for medical assistants, nurses, clerical employees and office assistants who will begin their workshops in the fall of 2016,” said Ali A. Poorani, UD associate professor and director of HART.

The latest session was formally opened by remarks from Christiana Care’s vice president of patient experience, Shawn Smith. 

“The three core components to building a successful and engaging partnership with a patient are empathy, emotional intelligence and solid customer service,” Smith said. ”The Patient Experience Academy is set up to build competency in these concepts through experience-based learning.”

“The curriculum also provides opportunities for employees to network among their peers through in-depth conversations about patient experience,” he continued. “As we build these partnerships and provide these high-performing individuals with the tools they need to deliver on the promise of ‘The Christiana Care Way,’ they in turn become role models for their peers and help to disseminate these practices throughout our health system.”

Sheryl Kline, chairperson of UD’s Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM), said, “We are fortunate to be in the Delaware community, where the management at Delaware’s major health care system recognizes the need to be leaders in health care and hospitality.”

“Patients have many of the same needs as hotel guests,” Kline continued. “Top health care systems today must do more than heal their patients. They must provide personalized, welcoming and caring service and environments.”

Participating managers of Christiana Care Medical Group practices asserted that the Patient Experience Academy is already making a difference.

Manager Luann Bishop said that the program provided great networking opportunities while improving the quality of her work with patients and staff.

“What a positive, informative and great presentation with skills to take with me and start incorporating immediately,” Bishop said.

“I have really enjoyed the program and think it will make a positive impact on our practices,” added participating manager Dianne Conrad. “I look forward to working with everyone to help improve practices, patient experiences, leadership roles and staff expectations.”

Participating manager Sandy Camacho said that the instructors shared personal experiences during the course that made a strong impact on her and helped her learning.

Site supervisor Patricia White-Murray agreed, saying, “I returned to my site filled with excitement from our training class.”

White-Murray said that future training will continue to enhance the overall experiences of patients and staff members throughout Christiana Care’s departments.

“It is a delight to work with an enthusiastic leadership team that is committed to keeping patient experience as well as patient and employee engagement in the forefront of their operations,” Poorani said. 

He explained that the success of the program largely depends on the leadership role that the managers will play as they engage staff through coaching, new performance management methods, recognition programs and continuous practice and communication. 

“Christiana Care Health System has received remarkable rankings due to their commitment to learning, patient experience and engagement in recent years,” Poorani continued. “We are proud to partner with a local institution that values working with neighboring communities to make hospitals and health care truly hospitable.”

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