This is a guest post from CipherHealth employee Bart Engler. Bart recounts a personal healthcare experience and reflects on how one health system’s commitment to better patient engagement kept him coming back.
At 44 years old my exercise routine is much more about need than it is about want. Having two active boys aged 10 and 12, I’ve committed to doing just enough to be able to keep up with them, and have managed to stay in fairly decent shape.
One part of my regimen that I actually look forward to is Sunday morning basketball. For more than 10 years, 14 men of varying age and skill and I have carved out time each week to hit the court. It was during one of these early Sunday morning games back in July when I began a care journey that really opened up my eyes to the value of outstanding patient experience and timely outreach.
Tempering Pain with a Pleasant Patient Experience
It was the last game of the day, and I was running toward the basket to go up for a routine layup. I came down on top of another player’s foot and my ankle twisted out beneath the weight of my body. I recall four very distinct popping sounds and a rush of pain coming from my ankle. After getting up and trying to walk it off, I knew that this was not a typical sprain and hobbled off to the sideline.
Later that evening, my wife grew concerned and urged me to get my ankle checked out by a doctor, which was met by me trying to explain that it’s really not that bad. Despite my protests, she won the debate. The very next morning I headed to the local urgent care center, which was one that I had never visited before and was owned by a large health system.
From the time I entered the waiting room to departing the exam room, the overall care experience was exceptional — friendly staff, clean environment, and a very attentive physician, who suggested in no uncertain terms that I needed to consult an orthopedic specialist. While my ankle didn’t miraculously heal itself during the visit, I did limp out thinking about how refreshing the overall experience had felt.
After sharing the news with my wife, I promptly googled orthopedics in my area and found one whose credentials appeared satisfactory and was located close enough. The specialist was not affiliated with the urgent care facility’s network, but that really didn’t make much difference to me at the time.
The Power of a Single Phone Call
Just before reaching out, I received a call from an agent from the aforementioned health system asking how I was feeling and if I needed any assistance scheduling an appointment with a specialist. Well, as a matter of fact, I did, and I was curious to see what they came up with. The agent said they had an orthopedic that was closer to my home than the one I had found, and that they were able to lock in the appointment over the phone. I was sold.
And with that seemingly simple post-visit follow up call, the health system was able to keep me in-network and prevent me from leaking out. Since then I have been back to the urgent care facility for flu treatment, as well as with my two sons for minor health concerns. I even referred it to a few friends, who have reported that they have had similar positive experiences and have since referred on to others.
Connecting All the Dots
As a patient, I take comfort in knowing that the health system is beginning to establish a record of my care journey, as well as that of my family, because they know our story and exactly what care we might need in the future. Even more valuable than that, though, is the relationship we now share. Healthcare is very personal, and the health system demonstrated to me through outstanding patient experience and proactive outreach that they really are invested in my well-being, and that we’re in it together.
Oh, and by the way, it’s been six months since the injury and I’m happy to say that I’m back to playing basketball every Sunday. The orthopedic specialist determined that while the sprain was indeed severe, there were no breaks or tears despite the wretched appearance of the foot and ankle. During recovery, I tried my best to stay off my feet — advice I may or may not have completely followed. Regardless, I’m grateful to be healthy and back on the court.