As the healthcare industry evolves from volume-based care to value-based care, patient experience is emerging as a dynamic issue for healthcare executives, physicians, nursing professionals, and other industry leaders. More importantly, savvy patients are starting to judge healthcare providers not only on clinical outcomes, but also for their empathic skills that contribute to the delivery of excellent, patient-centered care.
Indeed, culture transformation and patient satisfaction are priorities for the C-Suite in modern healthcare. But delivering superb service to patients requires more than world-class, highly skilled clinical care; it entails attending to the physical comfort and emotional, spiritual, and educational needs of patients. In addition, leaders need to set their sights on providing the right resources (people, tools, and processes), mining data analytics, supporting sustainability, and producing evidence-based best practices.
Patients as Consumers
A demand for quality patient experiences should come as no surprise. Patients are becoming more aware that they can choose where and how they receive healthcare, and they are coming to expect the same level of experience that they receive from other industries. Consequently, an increasing number of providers now recognize patients as consumers, as evidenced by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey.
The HCAHPS survey asks discharged patients 32 questions about their recent hospital stay. It contains 21 core questions about critical aspects of patients' hospital experiences (communication with nurses and doctors, the responsiveness of hospital staff, the cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment, pain management, communication about medicines, discharge information, overall rating of hospital, and would they recommend the hospital). The survey also includes four items to direct patients to relevant questions, and 7 demographic items that are used for adjusting the mix of patients across hospitals for analytical purposes. Low HCAHPS scores and negative reviews from consumer groups and websites can harm the business and bring financial penalties.
Levers and Roadblocks to Quality Patient Experience
To learn what organizations are doing to improve the patient experience across the continuum of care, the Beryl Institute collaborated with Catalyst Healthcare Research to conduct an in-depth study. Along with a review of recent literature, they collected data via a 60-question online in late 2015. The results of the study were reported in State of Patient Experience 2015: A Global Perspective on the Patient Experience Movement.
Across all segments, leadership (specifically at the top) was identified as the key driver for success, followed closely by managerial-level leadership. In other words, leadership at all levels matters to the patient experience.
Meanwhile, the report also identified roadblocks organizations must maneuver around to provide stellar patient experience. The greatest concern seen year after year remains “competing priorities,” reported by 49 percent of hospitals, 37 percent of practices, and 33 percent of long-term care. This obstacle is followed closely across all segments by budget concerns and resource constraints.
“These roadblocks reinforce a fundamental challenge seen across healthcare. In a dynamic industry, driven by multiple requirements, comprised of countless moving parts we run the risk of diluting any effort, which we choose to undertake. This competition for priority also puts a strain on resources and the capacity to both budget for and execute on efforts,” writes Jason A. Wolf, president of Beryl Institute.
Enter the CPXO
According to State of Patient Experience 2015, a growing number of healthcare systems and providers are hiring chief patient experience officers (CPXO) to manage the increasing pressures and improve customer satisfaction. In fact, a resounding majority of respondents from every segment have added a senior leader for patient experience—someone with accountability or primary responsibility for leading experience efforts. In U.S. hospital, 63 percent of respondents identified having this type of leader, and non-U.S. hospitals reported almost 80 percent having a senior-level leader driving the experience conversation.
The idea is that the CPXO will bring holistic experience design to the boardroom, an essential part of the organization and culture. They will be positioned to:
- build a relationship-based culture that improves physician and staff engagement and communication
- drive culture transformation
- unify quality and experience strategies to improve care delivery
- restore human-to-human connection that engages patients’ families and clinicians as equal partners.
“The chief patient experience officer is responsible for making sure every aspect of a complex delivery system consistently meets basic patient and human need and what it calls operationalizing the patient experience mission,” explains Howard Larkin in the H&HN article, “Focus on the C-Suite: Listener-in-Chief.”
Staff Development and Culture Take Center Stage
Although the CPXO role is gaining traction in the industry, the focus on patient experience is so new that best practices still need to be established. State of Patient Experience 2015 notes that “staff development and culture change efforts are top areas of investment, with an increasing focus on patient and family engagement.” According to the data, more than half of hospitals (U.S. hospitals, 59 percent; non-U.S. hospitals, 54 percent) and two-thirds of long-term care facilities (67 percent) plan to focus their investments over the next three years on training and development initiatives.
The report warns, though, that training can be a double-edged sword. “While organizations do need the skills and knowledge to ensure positive experience efforts, there has yet to be an organization I can name that has simply trained their way to success alone,” says Wolf. “The culture of an organization is at the heart of its ability to provide the best experience.”
Solid selection processes are also important, as well as proper reinforcement, reward, and recognition mechanisms—all of which point to culture. However, only 44 percent of U.S. hospitals report investing in broader culture change eff¬orts, followed by 39 percent of practices.
One institution embracing staff development and cultivating a patient experience culture is the Cleveland Clinic. In addition to core training programs, it launched the Patient Experience Summit several years ago. Bringing together executives, administrators, doctors, and nurses, the summit offers sessions on all aspects of the patient experience, from face-to-face interaction with caregivers, to digital education opportunities, to communicating information effectively to families, the list goes on.
According to the Summit planners, “Many of the best solutions for challenges are found at the front lines of the caregiver-patient relationship, and bringing people together to share and network ensures that we all have access to the latest innovations.”
Bottom line: Patient experience is a dynamic issue for everyone in the healthcare industry. No provider can afford to offer anything less than the best clinical, physical, and emotional experience to patients and families. What’s more, there are many opportunities to improve the patient experience—fostering a culture that prioritizes the patent experience, adding a CPXO, and developing staff through training. To succeed in these endeavors, no doubt talent development will need to play key a role.