With all the predictions of new healthcare trends and the expanding requirements being placed on healthcare providers, one thing holds true – at the center of all these efforts and initiatives lies the patient. This is not patient-centeredness in the traditional sense of simply the care setting, but it is now clear that whether you are ready or not, the patient has taken center stage in our healthcare system.
For some, the patient experience was the fundamental driver of their efforts well before any requirements were raised; providing the greatest service and highest quality outcomes for the patients and families served at every touch point. Others have found new initiative in addressing patient experience with expanding financial implications. Yet many still struggle with where to focus, what to do or even if to act.
The harsh reality is that as of today over two-thirds of the initial performance period for Value-Based Purchasing is now in the books. With a closing date of March 31, 2012 and then the reality that reimbursements will be impacted just six months later, this is not the time to get stuck in a state of confusion. If you are not already moving, you still have time to act.
I have been asked by many healthcare leaders for the secret to the “best” patient experience. And while I will be the first to say I do not believe there is one specific formula that leads to patient experience success, I have offered a few considerations. In my recent blog with Hospital Impact, I reiterated the importance of four central strategies:
1. A clear organizational definition for patient experience.
2. A focused role to support patient experience efforts.
3. A recognition that patient experience is more than just a survey.
4. A commitment at the highest levels of leadership.
These suggestions are not complicated initiatives, but rather they should be a simple choice.
In every instance of high performance in patient experience what I observed above all else is that willingness to make a choice. For some it was a broad strategic effort where patient satisfaction was a key measure in performance compensation. For others it was finding that one area where they could begin to move the needle – creating a more quiet and relaxing environment, rounding with intention and empathy to ensure a patient and their family felt attended to, or simply communicating consistently that they were taking every action possible to ensure their patient’s pain was managed. I have suggested and will reassert here that excellence in patient experience emerges in the ability to balance its need to be a strategic imperative with clear measurable, tangible, and yes tactical action.
Most importantly, as my grandfather so wisely shared with me years ago, the more complicated we choose to make things, the more difficult they seem to accomplish. Patient experience is a critical issue, with increasing demands and pressures intertwined with a passion for care and an understanding that it is the right thing to do. This does not mean we need to make it bigger than we can handle. Or even that we need be discouraged if we have finally been able to make it a priority after others may seem “so far ahead”. The reality is that whenever and wherever you start is the right time and place if the intention is right and true. Now you have the choice, one as simple as committing to take that first step. My hope is that each of us, in every healthcare setting, has resolved to do something to improve the patient experience in 2012.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute