This April, leaders from across North America joined together to engage in a dialogue on the critical importance of the patient experience in our healthcare systems. The gathering at The Beryl Institute Patient Experience Conference 2011 was headlined by top healthcare executives from such places as UCLA and Henry Ford Health Systems and speakers from healthcare organizations across the continent. While the content was unparalleled and the learning well received, what emerged as the most profoundly important takeaway was the connections made and the network of peers formed.
In reading post conference evaluations one comment seemed so personal and touching it cased me to pause for a moment. The words on the page were simple:
“I’m not the only person struggling with how to make the patient experience better.”
In reading this statement I realized that while we can talk about the patient experience in a collective way, it is truly an individualized experience in each organization and facility. According to The Beryl Institute’s recent benchmarking study, patient experience was deemed a priority by almost 800 healthcare executives, yet they lacked definition and a clear path forward. Beneath the data what I saw was 660 healthcare organizations that have taken it upon themselves to, in their own way, tackle this issue.
For the amount of time we each work to address patient experience in our own facility, many individuals have done the same. They have tried new ideas, and created others, failed terribly and succeeded wildly. What lies beneath these efforts is an even greater opportunity for shared learning and connection. It is the chance for those of us in healthcare to collectively see improvements in the experience of our patients, their families and in the communities we serve.
No…you are not alone! But you must be willing to take the step to connect with and engage others. While the Patient Experience Conference was a microcosm of how this can be done, it is creating your own network of peers where the connections created, energy unleashed and shared passion realized at events like the conference can be experienced all year round. This was poignantly observed by an attendee who said, “Everyone in attendance wants to see a shift for the better within the industry, this is not one of those conferences where everyone is trying to prove their own magnificence, rather everyone is trying to come together and make a significant difference in Healthcare as an industry.” This is the opportunity we have and the difference we can make in coming together each and every day.
I believe that most (if not all) of us chose to take on addressing patient experience for more than simple competitive advantage. It is and continues to be a much higher calling. One in which the collective energies of many will far outweigh the attempts of one. The connections and resources you gain from choosing to reach out to others will help you realize even greater success.
Therefore, I would assert that being alone in this work is also a choice, one that may serve ultimately as a roadblock to progress. In the end, you are alone in addressing the patient experience, only if you choose to be. I challenge you to find others with which to take this journey. That may be the most important choice you make in your journey to improve the patient experience.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute