Reflections From The Disruption Lounge

Last week, the Nason Group joined with over 300 passionate people at the Next Generation Patient Experience (NGPX) Conference in San Diego, CA. The week was filled with powerful speakers, engaging conversations, and plenty of high-octane networking. Among other things at the event, we sponsored a disruption lounge in the exhibit hall where we invited attendees to come talk about the challenges they’re facing and to do some problem solving for how to overcome these challenges. Our team felt privileged to sit with so many smart, gifted people who were committed to patient-first healthcare. Here are some of the insights that we gathered from this rich experience.

Chief Disruptor — Shawn Nason

A number of years ago, I read a book that started me on the journey towards being a disruptor. The book was Dancing with Dinosaurs by William Easum. Here’s the clear message from the author:

You don’t have to change the message,

but you do have to change the way that the message is delivered. 

So, what does that have to do with our week at NGPX? A lot, actually.

For us to successfully disrupt the healthcare industry, we have to change the way that we’re communicating the message of patient experience to the people who have the biggest opportunity to influence the patient experience. This means thinking critically about the language and methods we use when we’re connecting with various groups within our organizations.

Another significant takeaway for me came from spending time with all of the people who attended the conference. The people who work in the world of patient experience are indeed a tribe and I’m so thankful to get to be a part of this tribe. This group is united by their passion for patient-first healthcare and their relentless focus on changing a system that has lost sight of putting the patient first. I left the conference with a renewed sense of hope for the future of healthcare knowing that this group of talented people are ready to be disruptors!


Chief of Radical Experiences — Michael Harper

My biggest takeaway from the NGPX conference? That’s easy. I discovered once again that the PX world is filled with amazing people who are serious about improving patient experience. I truly enjoyed getting to hear about new initiatives, creative thinking, and some big ideas for moving forward.

In the disruptor’s lounge, I heard the continued need for a mindset of disruption among patient experience leaders. Here’s what I mean:

Disruptors Are Not Firefighters—A common theme among the leaders I talked to was that they spend most of their time putting out small fires instead of trying to change the system. Fighting these kinds of fires is exhausting and never moves the needle in patient experience. The disruption mindset challenges us to look past the small fires so we can instill a patient-first approach throughout the organization.

Disruption Starts with Empathy—Most of the people I talked to indicated that their “empathy tanks” were pretty low. And, they noted that they were frustrated by the lack of empathy they see in the providers with whom they work. Empathy has to be the foundation for building a culture of patient-first care. So, a critical piece of the puzzle for improving patient experience is creating a culture of empathy throughout the entire organization. 

Disruptors Work Collaboratively—So many of the people we talked to expressed a frustration with being powerless in their ability to solve any problems. Instead of feeling connected to the parts of the organization that could improve patient experience, they felt like they were working alone and sometimes even against other people in the organization. Disruptors know that they need each other. Tackling big, hairy problems, requires a coordinated group effort from passionate people who are not OK with the status quo. Disruptors know that the right people have to be in the room to solve the problem.


Chief Empathizer — Ryan Mulligan

People get really honest on a couch with a stranger who shows them he is genuinely interested in them. As I sat and listened to people who wanted to move the needle in patient experience, similar themes kept creeping into the conversation:

• “Our organization doesn’t invest in our people.”

• “They are fine with mediocre. No one is accountable to poor experiences because no one person ties back to any score.”

• “Our employees are drained and don’t see their roles connected to how patients are cared for.”

The healthcare industry is filled with compassionate people who don’t have permission, courage, or a path to act. The nerves of our staff have become numb in order to withstand a system that is not designed for speed or with the patient in the center.

Empathy brings an understanding of the big hairy problems that we are facing in patient experience. Compassion for patients and their families can give us the courage to act to change the system. To move forward, we have to develop new ways to be champions for compassion in an industry that is overly focused on survey results and the bottom line.

The hopeful thing is that every person I talked to already saw a clearly defined problem ready to be solved in their organization. They even had specific patients they wanted to interview to understand their perspective on the issue. The ball is definitely moving in the right direction and I’m excited to see what happens next!



  1. Carol Bridges on February 18, 2019 at 1:10 am

    Finally got a moment to read this and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed the Nason Group and my time with each of you. The Empathy (ok…Disruption) Lounge was a GREAT idea, as were all of your high energy, people focused ideas.

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