Best Practices for the Patient Experience: Five Essential Daily Steps

By Elizabeth Ziemba, President, Medical Tourism Training

Creating an overall end-to-end excellent patient experience requires a series of interrelated systems, policies, and programs. Innovations and measurement are necessary for continuous improvement. Commitment to excellence is essential.

Demonstration of its commitment to a superior patient experience is apparent in many ways at the Hospital Internacional de Colombia, Bucaramanga, Colombia but none is so apparent as the 5 Acciones Vitales (Five Vital Actions or Five Essential Steps) program.

Throughout the large, state-of-the-art hospital, the message of the importance of providing an excellent patient experience is prominently displayed either as a very large poster with all five steps or with each one of the five steps individually. These displays remind staff of the essential ingredients of interactions with patients, accompanying guests, and other members of staff. And of course, the messages are communicated to visitors and patients whose expectations are established by the Five Essential Steps.

The 5 Acciones Vitales are simple and are based in common sense to communicate and interact with respect, treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. In the daily rush of life especially in high pressure environments like hospitals, people can forget some of the basics. This program is a good daily reminder especially on days when stress levels are high, and life seems crazy. Would your hospital, clinic, or life benefit from these five steps?

  1. Greet/ Saludar: Saying “Hello” to everyone seems like a way of life in Colombia. In hospitals and clinics where the pace of activity is fast, taking a moment to greet each other may seem like a waste of time to many especially in the Western world. It is an essential reminder to establish and maintain a human connection especially in a clinical setting where teamwork is vital. And so is taking care of the patients and visitors who are as much, if not more, stressed than staff.
  2. Put yourself in the place of the other/ Ponerse en el lugar del otro: Healthcare settings are excellent places to establish empathy and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Reminding yourself that the person may be extremely ill, stressed, and in a frightening and unfamiliar environment can help you to communicate in a manner that is more sympathetic, calming, and clear. It can reduce tensions for both persons.
  3. Commit ourselves/ Comprometornos: Commitment to the patient experience is essential. Patients, visitors, and staff will know if someone is insincere, unfriendly, unsympathetic, or otherwise failing to live the five daily steps. Promising to abide by these five daily steps and then living them day in and day out can be transformative for the person and organization. Human beings are not robots and some days will be better than others in fulfilling this promise. Commitment, not perfection, is needed.
  4. Thank/Agradecer: Saying “thank you” and being grateful go hand in hand. These two words acknowledge people’s words and actions that make a difference. They are great to build teamwork. Simple but important words.
  5. Smile/Sonreur: Smiling at patients, visitors, and staff can make the hospital or clinic seem like a friendlier place and reduce tensions caused by difficult situations. Hospitals and clinics are unfamiliar territory for most people. Smiles can be reassuring and connect strangers and colleagues.

Try these Five Daily Steps – 5 Acciones Vitales – in your hospital or clinic or place of work. They can make a world of difference.

Want to improve your patient experience? Medical Tourism Training provides consulting and training services designed to grow your health travel organization. Contact us today!

About the author:

Elizabeth Ziemba, MPH JD is President of Medical Tourism Training Inc, a training, consulting, assessment, and accreditation consultancy, She is cohost of The Medical Travel Show, a serial podcast on medical travel topics. Contact her at


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Elizabeth Ziemba

Elizabeth Ziemba

President at Medical Tourism Training
With a diverse background in public health, law and business, Elizabeth brings a unique set of skills and experience to Medical Tourism Training with services including assessment tools, online and onsite training, workshops, and consulting services for governments, providers, facilitators, associations and others involved in medical travel.