patient experience prince Mohammed bi Abdulaziz Hospital

Pioneering Patient Experience and Centricity in Healthcare- An Exclusive Interview with Hala Almuways

Patient experience and centricity play a pivotal role in evaluating the quality of healthcare provision. In recent years, the focus on patient experience has experienced substantial growth, closely intertwining with clinical effectiveness and safety. Acknowledging the significance of these factors, New Metrics has had the privilege of interviewing Hala Almuways, the Patient Experience Director at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Hospital in Riyadh. In this exclusive interview, Hala sheds light on the strategies and initiatives implemented at the hospital that led to its remarkable achievement—shifting the hospital’s culture from a task-oriented approach to a person-centered one by adhering to all national and international Person-Centered Care (PCC) (Planetree) standards. This transformation played a key role in securing the prestigious Dr. Kwang Tae Kim Grand Hospital Award from the International Hospital Federation in 2023.

Transformative Initiatives and Collaborative Culture at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Hospital

New Metrics: Congratulations on Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Hospital’s remarkable achievement in winning the Dr. Kwang Tae Kim Grand Hospital Award from the International Hospital Federation in 2023. As the Patient Experience Director at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Hospital, what strategies or initiatives did you implement to drive significant improvement in patient satisfaction and enhance the overall healthcare experience that led to this prestigious recognition?

Hala Almuways
: We are thrilled and honored to receive the prestigious recognition we’ve been awarded. It’s the result of persistent and collaborative work that has facilitated a cultural shift across the entire organization. The Dr. Kwang Tae Kim Grand Hospital Award is the highest honor for an individual hospital within the IHF. It’s bestowed to hospitals that excel in five dimensions of healthcare delivery:

  • Health service quality
  • Patient experience
  • Clinical outcomes and health equity
  • Cost efficiency
  • Workforce wellbeing

This year, the IHF panel of 40 international judges selected Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Hospital (PMAH) from over 500 entries across 43 countries for this award, among many impressive and excellent entries. This is a significant achievement, and I want to congratulate my colleagues and all the PMAH employees!

Patient experience is now a key indicator of quality healthcare provision, closely intertwined with clinical effectiveness and patient safety. For PMAH, a new approach was introduced, in which person-centered care should be the core of all operations. We believe that patients’ preferences should be prioritized to improve their engagement and empower their decisions regarding their healthcare regime. To achieve this, we have created an environment where patients are encouraged to define their treatment goals, evaluate their preferences, and have control over their procedures and personal environment.

Of course, we would not be able to reach this stage without developing the necessary tools that help enable patients and their care partners to be active partners in the treatment journey. We also designed the necessary programs for staff to be educated and oriented on utilizing these tools to maximize patient and caregiver engagement throughout their journey. Some of the initiatives include:

  • Enablement and education tools
  • The care partner program
  • The communication board

Additionally, to ensure that the services that we provide match our clients’ needs, we actively involve patients and their families in planning, designing, and collaboratively implementing improvement projects through the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), where all the management are available and representatives from most of the organization’s departments.

We likewise developed several initiatives and projects to foster the healing environment for both patients and staff, through establishing:

  • The health resource center
  • Counseling rooms
  • Walking track
  • Staff lounge
  • Staff private rooms

While the patient experience administration spearheaded this project, we cannot overlook the contributions of other departments, recognizing that organizational excellence cannot be achieved through a single person or department.

Our collective aim is to maximize the patients’ engagement and elevate the patients’ experience, which will automatically enhance clinical outcomes, patients’ and staff satisfaction, improve the quality of the service, and enrich the PCC culture.

Hala Almuways

Measuring the Impact of Patient Experience Initiatives

New Metrics: How do you measure the success of your patient experience initiatives, and what metrics or indicators do you use to assess the impact on patient satisfaction?

Hala Almuways: We use various methods to measure the impact and collect feedback from our patients, including third-party organizations, which send out surveys to measure patient satisfaction. Additionally, we have internal processes in place to gather feedback directly from our patients and identify any areas of improvement from their perspective. This includes structured rounds for all in-patients and out-patients, as well as the Ask Me booths where patients can provide their feedback and share their experiences for the purpose of improving our services. Aside from these direct measures, we assess the profound positive impact of the patient experience initiatives indirectly through other metrics and KPIs such as the length of stay, the readmission rate, … etc. In all our initiatives we adopt Agile approach in which we implement and constantly measure and improve. These sprints helped us achieve the maximum benefits within a short period of time.

Overcoming Challenges in Patient Experience Initiatives

New Metrics: What challenges did you encounter while implementing your strategies, and how did you overcome them?

Hala Almuways: While implementing our strategies, we faced challenges in shifting healthcare workers’ perception of patients and caregivers, emphasizing their crucial role in care optimization. The transformation from viewing patients as “passive recipients” to “active partners” required strong leadership support, education initiatives through channels like social experiments and campaigns, and the application of change management techniques. Clearly highlighting the benefits for all stakeholders was crucial. Encouraging patients and caregivers to actively engage initially posed difficulties, but through enablement tools, education, orientation, and empowerment programs, we successfully overcame these challenges.

Innovative Approaches to Improve Patient Experience

New Metrics: Could you provide examples of innovative approaches or technologies you introduced to improve patient experience at your hospital?

Hala Almuways: At our hospital, we’ve implemented several initiatives to enhance the patient experience. One notable initiative is the Health Resource Center (HRC), a dedicated space where patients and their care partners can take a break from the hospital environment. The HRC is equipped with computers offering free internet access, a TV, educational materials, general books, and an entertainment corner with different games. Functioning much like a business center within the hospital. The HRC aims to provide a comfortable retreat and offer them access to information.

Another impactful initiative is the Welcome Card, designed for our in-patients. Recognizing the vulnerability of patients in an unfamiliar environment without their loved ones, the Welcome Card strives to create a warm, supportive, and welcoming atmosphere. It is handed to patients upon admission and contains vital information to reassure and comfort them and their care partners throughout the hospital stay. It includes different enablement and empowerment materials (such as the shared medical record, visitation hours, bedside shift report, and care partner programs). It also contains different tools that assess patients’ preferences enabling us to personalize care based on their needs and wishes, including meals menu, language, bathing and grooming, sleep time/quiet time. Additionally, and to facilitate the adaption process, we incorporated a simplified version of the hospital’s map reflecting the main amenities that they may need to visit during their stay such as the praying areas, the Mini market, the walking track, and the HRC. 

Our ultimate goal is to deliver a positive hospitalization experience, aiding patients in adapting to their new environment, fostering trust between patients and service providers, improving clinical outcomes, and enhancing patient satisfaction through personalization, transparency, and engagement.

Hala Almuways

Exceptional Patient Experience Elements

New Metrics: In your opinion, what are the key elements that contribute to creating an exceptional patient experience in a healthcare setting?

Hala Almuways: The patient experience begins even before entering the hospital, starting with accessibility and parking and extending throughout the entire journey, including waiting areas, waiting times, staff communication, and extending to the operating rooms and more. Each of these touchpoints plays a vital role in shaping exceptional and positive experiences. Knowing this emphasizes the importance of considering all the possible touch points when designing patients’ journeys.

Key elements contributing to an exceptional patient experience in a healthcare setting involve establishing a clear navigation system, employees open and compassionate communication and caring attitude, and lastly patients’ empowerment and engagement throughout their entire journey.

Patient Centered Care

New Metrics: How do you ensure that patient-centricity remains a priority throughout the organization, and what steps do you take to foster a culture of Person-centered care?

Hala Almuways: At PMAH, we place a high priority on patient-centricity throughout our organization. We strongly believe in patients being active partners in their own care, and we collaborate with them to attain their defined treatment goals. To realize this commitment, we have established policies and procedures that are aligned with the person-centered care principles and practices. The implementation of The PCC practices is also closely monitored by the PCC steering committee, whose members are the top management and a representative from every department within the organization. Additionally, we employ monitoring and tracking tools to ensure the consistent and intended implementation of these practices.

We strongly believe in patients being active partners in their own care, and we collaborate with them to attain their defined treatment goals.

Hala Almuways

Communication and Patient Experience

New Metrics: How does effective communication enhance patient experience, and how do you ensure clear and empathetic communication with patients and their families?

Hala AlmuwaysClear and effective communication is essential in daily life, and its significance becomes even more crucial when conveying health-related information. The communication must be exceptionally clear and accurate. At PMAH, we consider open and effective communication as a vital component of patient experience. We believe that this will not only help to serve the patients’ needs, but also improve the health outcomes and provide person-centered care. Thus, to cater to our diverse community, we have established a Multilingual Support Group— fluent in more than 23 languages, providing a multilingual community for our patients, including Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Spanish, French, and Sign Language.

In terms of empathy and compassionate communication, we prioritize staff education through regular lectures and retreats to foster these essential qualities. Utilizing various channels such as social experiments, campaigns, interactive corners, and digital reminders, we consistently reinforce the caring attitude within our healthcare communication practices.

Women in Healthcare Leadership

New Metrics: As a successful woman in healthcare leadership, what advice would you offer to other women aspiring to make an impact in the healthcare industry or aiming for leadership positions?

Hala Almuways: My advice is to believe in the significance of your message and in yourself. In healthcare, we have an added responsibility to be dedicated and compassionate. We must continuously strive to improve the patients’ experiences, making a positive impact on lives, supporting, and empowering them in their most difficult situation. Though you might face challenges and obstacles, remember that each of these are opportunities for growth. Stay resilient and embrace these roadblocks as steppingstones to reaching your ultimate goals. 

Engaging with stakeholders is necessary for driving effective change. Beyond technical aspects, invest time in actively seeking input and feedback from employees, patients, and their families to foster ownership and empowerment. Cultivate trust, encourage collaboration, and promote buy-in through open communication and transparency. Remember, successful change management entails meaningful engagement with stakeholders, not just tasks and processes. Help everyone understand what’s in any project or initiative for them, patients, and the community. You will soon realize that you are changing mindsets and transforming cultures.

The healthcare industry has recently undergone a significant shift towards prioritizing patient experience and centricity. Patients are now considered active players in their own care journey, and their perspectives are being integrated into the decision-making process. Institutions like Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Hospital, led by professionals like Hala Almuways, have committed to adopting a more inclusive and personalized approach to healthcare. As the industry moves forward, advancements in technology, data-driven insights, and a focus on holistic well-being are expected to further refine the patient experience. This trajectory suggests that empowering patients, transparent communication, and innovative solutions will continue to shape the future of healthcare. Patient experience and centricity are expected to remain at the forefront of the industry, resulting in a more patient-centric, responsive, and empathetic healthcare system.

About Hala Almuways

Hala Almuways is a highly driven CX leader with an impressive academic and professional background. Holding a Master’s degree from the University College London (UCL), she is a Fellow in Person-Centered Care (FPCC) at Planetree International, a Certified Customer Experience Professional, and a Certified Change Management Practitioner. With over 12 years of clinical experience working with patients and their families in the healthcare sector, Hala brings a wealth of expertise. Additionally, she has more than five years of experience in accreditations and excellence programs, all aimed at elevating and enriching the customer experience. She has spearheaded various initiatives to promote and reinforce customers engagement and empowerment, as well as organizational well-being. Currently serving as the Patient Experience Director and Person-Centered Care Director at PMAH, and enrolled in the distinguished Misk 2030 Leaders program.