Healthcare Ethnography: Discover Front Line Hospital Insights

Ethnography offers your hospital a solution to achieve and maintain operational efficiency

Healthcare innovation is constantly changing and challenging the way in which hospitals operate but integrating that innovation into a pressured environment is a problem faced by many health systems.

Healthcare ethnography can help your hospital to discover front-line insights to transform patient care and the patient experience and save money.

In some places, outdated industry standards have become ritualized. A proactive approach to innovation and improvement is not always possible for hospital staff immersed in their daily routines.

Ethnography offers your hospital a solution to achieve and maintain operational efficiency in what is often a disruptive healthcare environment.

What is Ethnography?

Ethnography studies the culture and habits of people in specific situations. In healthcare, it can be applied to:

  • Explain discrepancies between what patients say and what they do.
  • Identify needs that people can’t articulate explicitly.
  • Describe both usage and meaning of healthcare services.
  • Put a human face on market data through real-life stories.
  • Evaluate current products or services or create brand new ones.
  • Help collect and organize multiple viewpoints and represent patients in an unbiased manner.
  • Directly provide patient models that can quickly generate many good ideas.

Gaining front line insights from the viewpoint of patients, their families, and carers is essential to improve the quality of patient care. Our ethnographers use this qualitative research methodology to understand how to improve individual departments within your hospital, leading to greater patient and family satisfaction. The care coordination within a bundled payment model is also enhanced.

Our holistic approach involves gathering subjective insights to accompany data analytics and equip your hospital with the tools it needs for continuous innovation and improvement.

Our Process

The first part of the process is to illustrate a Patient Journey Map™ to identify existing challenges within your hospital. Our experienced ethnographers then collaborate with your team to create sustainable solutions.

One pathway to this process (VIE Healthcare), is to adopt a holistic approach that engages employees, patients, and their families by examining and analyzing their behaviors, attitudes and emotions.

The result is the discovery of valuable front line insights to empower your organization with opportunities that innovate and improve products and services to meet those needs.

Our team of ethnographers can uncover and solve hidden, complex issues in the delivery of your care and operational performances across your hospital, which can result in millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Our process involves:

  • Engagement with, and interviewing your employees, allowing them to contribute individual insights and ideas. This helps us to recommend improvements and enhance patient care.
  • Shadowing surgical cases from the front line to observe the decision-making process and staff performance. This gives us the insight to identify inefficiencies or areas where shortcuts are made often due to a lack of effective training or awareness of regulations.

Benefits of Ethnography in Healthcare

In summary, ethnography offers numerous benefits in your hospital, including:

  • Target the actual needs of patients and families, saving valuable time and resources.
  • Identify process improvements that have a tangible effect on your staff’s daily activities.
  • Improve staff satisfaction by allowing them to be heard and addressing their needs.
  • Redesign care through a collaborative approach for patients, families and staff.
  • Multi-disciplinary care coordination throughout the care continuum.
  • Improve patient satisfaction scores that directly impact bundle payments and reimbursement.
  • Transform the patient experience.
  • Reduce your hospital purchased costs.

Ethnography for Exceptional Patient Care

The insights we discover during our analysis reveal the unspoken needs of your patients and families to transform the patient experience and deliver a smoother patient journey through your organizational boundaries.

Our insights reduce errors, duplications and delays often experienced during processes such as “hand-offs.”

The result is improved health outcomes and a more enriching experience for patients and their families, positioning your hospital as a thought leader in the healthcare sector. As value-based care comes to the forefront, it becomes an essential part of driving margin improvement for the survival of your hospital.


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Lisa Miller
Lisa Miller
Lisa Miller launched VIE Healthcare Consulting in 1999 to provide leading-edge financial and operational consulting for hospitals, healthcare institutions, and all providers of patient care. She has become a recognized leader in healthcare operational performance improvement, and with her team has generated more than $776 Million in financial improvements for VIE Healthcare’s clients. Lisa is a trusted advisor to hospital leaders on operational strategies within margin improvement, process improvements, technology/telehealth, the patient experience, and growth opportunities. She is committed to empowering hospital leaders to achieve their boldest vision and has created the healthcare sector’s only cost savings strategy. Currently, she hosts The Healthcare Leadership Experience — the radio show empowers healthcare leaders to optimize their careers and healthcare organizations.
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