The Patient Experience Puzzle

Today healthcare is on everyone’s mind. The confluence of policy, politics, demographics and economics has hit an industry that consumes almost 20% of our economy. Healthcare is deeply personal while extraordinarily complex. It is an industry that can produce the most awe-inspiring life saving breakthroughs and still seem out of touch with advances in technology and information management. It touches every facet of our lives.

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The Patient Experience Puzzle

In short how we deliver, access and pay for healthcare has to and is changing. Most graphs show our healthcare spending rising, syphoning off funds that could be used for other areas of our economy such as education and infrastructure. Yet you ask almost any healthcare provider, and they are struggling to make the financial equation work.

What will drive true breakthrough versus improvement at the margins? There is no single answer to this question – no magic bullet or single piece of legislation – but there must be an alignment between regulations and policies, consumer choice and action, innovators and purchasers. Thousands are engaged and acting on this question, at global, national, state and local levels and from different perspectives.

I am one of those individuals. Twenty-five years ago I began a career in healthcare that spanned different industries, countries and functions. While the work I do now has moved beyond just healthcare, I am committed to being part of the transformation of healthcare. When I founded Whiton House, I started a research project to capture the learning, experiences and knowledge of my career to empower boards and senior leaders to be proactive in what has been an ever-growing focus on the patient experience.

I completed that project and am releasing it here, The Patient Experience Puzzle.

Why is this important? For decades, healthcare lagged behind so many industries in its neglect of studying and managing the patient experience. Saving lives was our calling not mimicking McDonalds.

Today, by and large, the healthcare industry embraces its responsibility and ownership of the experiences it creates. This is good news, as we cannot begin to think about transforming an industry until we become experts at what are we trying to create. But passion and enthusiasm can also be the incubator for groupthink, fads and journeys without vision.

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” More than a list of to dos – I hope the questions raised and the framework offered in Patient Experience Puzzle provides a nimble and evolving roadmap that unleashes the creativity and discipline required for breakthroughs in how we design, build and deliver health in the 21st century.

My deepest admiration and thanks goes out to all with whom I have learned from over the last twenty-five years. I look forward to the continuation of this journey.

By Oakleigh
Published: November 25, 2013

Flipped Learning – The Latest in Learning

Flipped learning has the attention of educators and students alike. What is it? As recent AP story described it as  “a technology-driven teaching method known as ‘flipped learning’ because it flips the time-honored model of classroom lecture and exercises for homework – the lecture becomes homework and class time is for practice.” Technology has enabled this new methodology as students can access videos of their teachers via the web.

My eldest child experienced this new form of learning for the first time as a high school freshman. As the article shared, flipped learning required adjustment on the part of students, but my child’s feedback was positive. Class time was more engaging and that means something coming from a teenager.

I was fascinated by this development as someone who studies how we optimize learning in pursuit of new knowledge & skills. Embedded in this notion is that learning requires multiple stages. People digest information but then more importantly have to use it.

But in the second phase, the application process, people inevitably have questions, make mistakes or don’t understand. They are at the door of understanding but can’t go through. Here the most valuable asset most assuredly in the classroom – the teacher –  is amplified with this method of teaching. The teacher provides information via the taped lectures but more importantly engages with the student during the classroom by answering questions, providing encouragement, or redirecting the student. They actively mentor.

For us in the workplace, the implications of this new style of learning are critical. Many times we hear the slogan “our people make the difference”. Companies back this up by spending significant time and resources developing their staff – including leadership conferences, university degree programs, and in-house training.

But here is where we may not be optimizing this investment. More times that not I see employees return from these educational opportunities only to get back on the trend mill of their day to day job. Their leader, perhaps not in attendance with that employee or focused on their priorities, fails to engage the employee with what they learned. It is not by design; it is just the fact of a busy work place. We have all been there.

The good news is we do not have to flip everything to get some better results. Here are some simple things to maximize the investment in our workforce:

  • Remember learning happens in stages. Focus as much attention on what happens after the educational experience. Have employees share how they want to apply any new learnings when returning from a class, training session or conference.
  • Create a dialogue. In one-on-one conversations with employees or department meetings, be specific in connecting the employee’s work to past educational opportunities. Reference past learning opportunities when coaching or mentoring a leader through a project or problem. Connect the learning to the real aspects of the job.
  • Learn as a team. Provide an article, video or someone other didactic material to a team and ask for feedback on how this applies to the work the group is doing.

Bottom line is active learning is key for skill or knowledge acquisition. Just as teachers can be the difference for students, our organizations’ leaders and the workplace are vital components of the learning process for employees.

By Oakleigh
Published: February 18, 2013

Start with Why

It is the title of Simon Sinek’s 2009 book and great advice.  In this  20 minute video sponsored by Ted, the author explains the fundamental communication challenge leaders have. Most leaders start with the “what”. But that is not what motivates people to commit to something whether it be the purchase of a good, a vote for a candidate or support of a cause. It is the “why” that drives behavior.

This is a natural follow-up to my previous recommendation for Daniel Pink’s lecture on what motivates people (autonomy, mastery, and PURPOSE). Idea: Look at your communication (written, verbal) as a leader, do you start with the why or the what?

Interesting: Here is a brief glance at how he finished his book.

By Oakleigh
Published: January 25, 2012

What motivates people? You might be surprised…

Daniel H. Pink, author of four provocative books about the changing world of work, including Drive, shares what truly motivates people in this ten minute video. The findings may surprise you.

Idea: This video would make a great learning break at a retreat or meeting for leaders with follow up discussion. It is entertaining, insightful and well worth the time.

By Oakleigh
Published: November 4, 2011

How We Face Challenges Can Define the Outcome

Everywhere we turn we see challenges. In my own community, we are faced with a funding gap of $10 million in our school budget and will see teacher layoffs most likely. Not-for-profits are fighting to deliver on their mission but with reduced donations and financial support. And companies each day work to weather a recession that may have ended theoretically but has yet to recede locally.

Over the years I have helped organizations go through such challenges as an organizational development and strategy coach. Interestingly, the outcomes were less defined by the crisis than by the approach the organization took in handling it. Some embraced the adversity and used it as a rallying cry to innovate, communicate differently, and create partnerships of shared purpose. They emerged stronger.  Others adopted what I call the bunker mentality, hoping to survive this one. They survived but just that.

In my experience, the organizations or communities that emerge the better from great challenges do five things well:

  • Innovate, ask tough questions, and develop new capabilities
  • Enlist the support of all stakeholders for ideas and solutions
  • Aggressively use communication to engage and prepare for tough decisions
  • Take both a long term and short term view
  • Focus relentlessly on what they are trying to accomplish.

I have no illusions that crises aren’t painful. But if we have to go through them, the goal should be to emerge an improved organization in a better community. Bunker or Better, it’s a choice.

* Oakleigh’s blog was adapted from her Letter to the Janesville Gazette Editor published February 8th, 2011.

By Oakleigh
Published: February 11, 2011

Education…An Issue for All

Regardless if you are a business, community or educational leader, we are all vested in making sure our education system is the best it can be. With the release of “Waiting for Superman”, national headlines about the high stakes education battles in New Jersey and the various models emerging as states respond to the Race to the Top, an active and national discussion about educational reform is rapidly emerging.

As background reading, I absolutely recommend “What Makes A Great Teacher?” by Amanda Ripley (Atlantic Magazine Jan/Feb 2010). While published earlier this year, it raises some new questions about some old notions of what makes a great teacher. It also has wonderful take aways for any organization that has people in the role of “teacher”.

By Oakleigh
Published: October 27, 2010

Recommended Reading for Healthcare Leaders

Early this year, I was helping a second year MBA candidate from my alma mater in his job search. He was originally from Wisconsin and wanted to return to his roots. While he did not find something in our Badger State, I was encouraged when he took an offer with a health care organization.

I sent him two books: Hardwiring Excellence and Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic. There are many valuable resources for those in healthcare, but I chose those because I believe they are timeless. At the core of these books, is the fundamental notion of recognizing how do we optimize human behavior and align resources around a sense of great purpose in a disciplined sustainable manner. Today I see many organizations looking for the next great “fix” or best practice thinking they have already done certain things or established certain norms in their culture. Instead, what they have is a culture of “options” and “at your discretion”. I highly recommend healthcare leaders to either visit these books or in many cases “revisit” them.

Berry, Leonard and Kent Seltman. 2008. Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the Worlds Most Admired Service Organizations. McGraw-Hill.

Studer, Quint. 2004. Hardwiring Excellence. Pensacola, FireStarter Publishing.

By Oakleigh
Published: August 15, 2010

Welcome to Whiton House Library

If you feel as I do, you can’t believe the access to information we have today. I remember the days when I eagerly awaited my monthly Harvard Business Review subscription to get the latest on business trends, strategy and thinking. How things have changed. The web allows individuals and organizations to share their knowledge and expertise instantly.

To receive notification of new updates simply click here or email me at Please feel free to suggest additions to the Library as well.


By Oakleigh
Published: August 14, 2010