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Kindness As A Core Value: Q&A With Megan West King Of Geisinger Health System

posted by AHIP

on August 21, 2018

Megan West King, MSN RN CPXP, Director of Patient Experience at Geisinger Health System, places a premium on kindness in the health care system. She’s found it to be good for the patient, the caregivers, and the insurance provider employees who are empowered to make their best decisions.

You talk about kindness as a core value. How do you make a business case for kindness?

West King: Kindness absolutely must be a core value because it instills trust. Trust brings loyalty, and loyalty brings consumers and recommendations. Consumers follow their family or neighbor recommendations because they will trust their opinions over an ad or a mail piece. To be effective, kindness must be genuine—and that comes from your employees.

Since it’s one of our Geisinger core values, “kindness” is incorporated as a personality trait in a pre-employment questionnaire, so we are able to hire the best employees. When we get comments or letters from patients that express the value of kindness on their decision to use Geisinger, or the impact our kindness has had on their attitude to healing, we celebrate by reading them in management meetings across the system.

How do those “softer” skills come into play in today’s health care environment? 

West King: Health systems must realize that managing health is a marriage—we walk with the patient in sickness and in health. It’s a partnership. The patient and their caregiver want to be known as people, not a diagnosis, a billing invoice number, or have to repeat their experience and explanations over and over. Truly listening, with good communication skills on the phone and in person, will save you time, and instill confidence not only in the patient, but also in the employee’s ability to do a job that is satisfying and make a difference.

How does the work align with your nursing background and skill set?

West King: Nurses are trained with an expectation of critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills. We see an issue from not just the physical impact, but the social and emotional factors that influence patient education, goal setting, and healing. In addition, nurses are good at putting the pieces of the puzzle together and looking for solutions through collaboration with partners. Whether that is in the hospital setting, or community. Nurses are excellent networkers!

How can a company learn more about their customers and community?

West King: First, do your homework—how does the community respond to local events, where do they work, how strong are their transportation and education systems? Then, be present. Walk around, shake some hands, be humble and grateful.

How do you define effective patient engagement?

West King: Effective patient engagement is built on a foundation of confidence and collaboration. Patients who are confident in their health care system are more willing to collaborate with their insurance provider. They will go to approved doctors, fill their prescriptions, and go for their return appointments.

Patient engagement must involve their family or caregivers to build consistent and reliable communication and trust. Develop a partnership with those the patient trusts. And this all begins with employee engagement—empowering communication with messages of guidance, help, and kindness. I do believe we just came full circle, didn’t we?