Reflecting on the Future of Patient Experience: Four Considerations for the Year Ahead

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The end of the year always brings a flurry of activity to finish what we set out to do and/or plan for what awaits in the year to come. It also serves as a time for reflection and looking ahead. This can be both an exciting and overwhelming exercise, but one that simmers at the core of our humanity, one filled with hopes and aspirations, commitments and goals. This is no different when we look to the very humanity at the heart of excellence in patient experience itself.

Dec2014_BlogI remain inspired by the exponential growth in energy, commitment, resources and interest in positively impacting the experience for patients, residents and families and for those providing care at all touch points across the continuum. Our commitment at the Institute remains to ensure this conversation continues to grow. I reinforce often that experience is not a fad, but rather it is fundamental to all we do in healthcare. It is both what we expect as participants in our respective healthcare systems and what we aspire to deliver in every encounter.

To support this in the last year we have expanded our resources and increased accessibility to The Beryl Institute. We have added both complimentary offerings, such as the new open-access and peer reviewed Patient Experience Journal (with forty new articles and commentaries this year) and community member benefits with PX Learning Bites, providing short educational insights into experience excellence. We have developed the core of the PX Body of Knowledge, our community developed framework of learning and development, and will offer twelve new modules before year’s end.

We have also expanded access to our community of practice in launching new Institutional Memberships, engaging thousands of individuals at all levels in healthcare organizations with a passion for patient experience improvement. We also have broadened the experience dialogue across the continuum with new content and engagement for Patient Advocates and in one of the fastest-growing segments in healthcare – Long-Term Care. And while these items were initiated in this year, they also represent a looking ahead and an investment in where we can go together as an experience movement.

This commitment, grounded in the contributions of our almost 28,000 members and guests in over 55 countries, is driven by four considerations I believe are central to driving patient experience excellence across care settings (and have been critical to our work in growing The Beryl Institute community itself). Consider these ideas as you look to the year ahead and your own experience efforts.

  • A mindset of abundance. Experience excellence is grounded in a spirit of generosity, in openness and access, sharing, and the active invitation to engage and contribute. It is the expanding of possibility and an understanding that rather than a zero-sum game, there is much to learn from and enough to spare for all; for those we care for and serve and for those with whom we work.
  • A commitment to inclusivity. The greatest opportunity we have in driving the best in experience is to ensure all voices are not only acknowledged, but also engaged and heard. In expanding our listening and the opportunity for contribution we open up possibilities we have yet to consider or even knew existed.
  • A focus on agility. In the dynamic world of healthcare and in our human environment in general, static state is now equivalent to falling behind and change in many ways is simply treading water. We must build the muscles of agility – the capacity to rapidly reconfigure and realign resources to lead new directions or shift as needed with the needs of our communities and the industry.
  • A drive for innovation. Excellence in experience may be best served by a vigilance to continuously searching for news ways of thinking, doing and disseminating ideas. This is beyond improvement of existing systems to look for concepts, constructs and practices that can lead us to new levels and to positive and lasting outcomes.

I offer these considerations as we look to the year ahead to suggest something significant. Yes, we have defined experience; yes, we are aware of the critical strategies and tactics that can frame and drive positive outcomes; but, if we are truly committed to a lasting and positive future in this work, we need to think not only about what we do, but also how we continue to stretch ourselves in doing it. The year ahead for patient experience will bring exciting new discoveries, powerful lessons and compelling stories that will move and inspire us to new levels. We do this not only out of passion, but out of our commitment to one another and the care we hope to provide to all.

I wish you all the best of holiday seasons, may it be warm and joyous as you connect with loved ones and friends. And as we look forward, here is to each of you for the positive impact you have committed to in caring for others and each other, as we continue this critical and exciting journey. I am honored and grateful to travel this road with you and anticipate with great excitement all that the days ahead will bring.

Jason. A. Wolf, Ph.D.
President
The Beryl Institute

Collaboration key to driving patient experience excellence

One underlying and powerful philosophy has driven all the work we have done at The Beryl Institute in the last four years. It is through the collective voices comprising our global community of practice that we generate ideas, learn and share with others. Through this collaboration both within the community and with others committed to this critical cause – the patient experience movement is supported, nourished, and will continue to thrive.

I have yet to see in any environment, the ability to achieve AND sustain success without a sense of alignment, collaboration and shared purpose. Organizations intent of fostering deep-rooted silos (or simply allowing them to exist) tend to reinforce battles for scarce resources and the pulling at an organization’s seams. In a movement as delicate and important as providing the best in experience for the patients, families and communities we serve, while also caring for each other delivering care, we must work in a much different way. I do not suggest competition is bad, in that it motivates innovation, expediency and progress, but rather that we must look to collaboration as a central capacity we should search for in our own organizations and those we choose to work with as we address patient experience excellence.

We have worked hard to model and encourage this through our work at The Beryl Institute. Our efforts have worked to bring disparate voices and perspectives together, such as our “voices” paper series that even included a paper with many competing survey vendors in onepublication. It has been seen in the various research we have conducted, events we have produced, learning we have developed and organizations we have worked to engage with or support.

The Patient Experience Body of Knowledge itself was developed by over 400 voices and included the engagement of central partners and experts in the experience effort such as the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC) and others. We have worked with the American Hospital Association to ensure patient advocates still had a professional home to continue expanding their rich history. We are expanding our engagement with key players in the physician practice and long-term care arenas to reinforce the fact that experience crosses the continuum of care.

From the collective voices that helped frame the very definition of patient experience, to our recognition that all voices matter on the experience conversation, we have worked to engage experience leaders and executives to front line staff, patients and families to resource providers, journalists to academic researchers. Our purpose is to not only encourage, but also model collaboration. We do this for the greater good of the movement and as an opportunity for all to consider in driving experience excellence.

If we are to continue to push the patient experience conversation forward, it will take the aligned efforts of many to frame, reinforce and progress the effort. It will take a reinforcement of the very values that have driven our work to date. You can consider the same as an opportunity in your own organization as you work towards collaborative success in impacting your patient experience efforts.

  • Ensure clarity of what it is you are trying to achieve. I maintain that definition and a clear purpose that is understood and shared by all is central to any patient experience success.
  • Find alignment in your efforts. What are the common causes you are looking to address? All too often we let competing interests shadow central needs that will benefit our organization and desired outcomes. Find points of purposeful action and move forward.
  • Actively engage all voices. Beyond simply creating the space for inclusion, is actively seeking, inviting, respecting and integrating all voices that may influence your work. There are multidimensional and broad reaching perspectives that impact experience excellence and we are best served by hearing them all.

While these values in action are fundamental to success, the most important thing we can do in addressing experience excellence is to take action itself. We must be mindful not to let the desire for or enactment of collaboration become the reason for inaction. It should and must become a means by which we all move forward on this issue together.

Collaboration in patient experience excellence is a local issue, one that must be managed by each organization striving for success. It also is a critical systemic opportunity. For in finding the strength of collaboration among organizations and ideas, we can support clarity, purpose and shared action that will ensure a strong and lasting focus on the experience of patients, residents, families and each other for many years to come. This may be healthcare’s strongest prescription for excellence. It is our job, together, to see it through.

Jason A. Wolf
President
The Beryl Institute

Encouraging Conversations on Patient Experience Excellence

pxblog1014In the last few weeks, I have been fortunate to join in a number of in-person conversations on patient experience improvement. From the gathering of patient advocates and experience champions in South Carolina, for the newly named Carolina Advocates for Patient Experience annual conference, to the impressive Patient Experience Summit put on by Dignity Health in Phoenix, that brought together over 650 front line caregivers and executive leaders in learning and dialogue on how to continue to their system’s trajectory to patient experience excellence. I also recently shared my experience with Value Health Partner’s collaborative dialogue in Michigan, bringing together peer organization’s to share ideas and address performance.

These gatherings and many others reinforce a simple, but important point. The conversation on patient experience improvement cannot and should not happen in isolation, but in dialogue with others across facility and organizational boundaries, and I would offer national boundaries as well.

I have come to see and strongly believe in two keys to patient experience excellence over the last few years on this journey. One, that there are ultimately no secrets in doing what is not only right for patients, families and our own teams, but also what is best for all involved. And two, answers to excellence in patient experience for you or your organization are not discovered in isolation, but rather in conversation with others. Then, as I have stressed on many occasions, the distinguishing factor is a willingness to do something about it – to commit, to execute, to follow-through and to measure your progress – all the while recognizing experience is not an initiative to accomplish, but an ongoing effort to ensure the best in quality, safety and service outcomes for all.

It is on this very premise that our work at The Beryl Institute has been built – that in convening people working to address this issue, to share successes and challenges, to reveal practices and co-create new ideas is fundamental to experience excellence. It fact it should, and must, sit at the very core of this movement. For this very reason we have built a highly interactive virtual network for our membership community, but more so strive to bring together people together regionally and globally for this very purpose.

In the coming month, starting this week in Boston, we will hold two Regional Roundtables. These events are built on the foundation of creating connection and learning from one another. Our focus on in-person connection is anchored on Patient Experience Conference, the largest annual independent, non-vendor or provider related, gathering of patient experience professionals, healthcare leaders, patient and family members and resource providers. Providing structured means for networking and sharing can only lead us to better overall experience for all in our healthcare systems around the world.

This might seem like a simple idea, but it is not always easy, so I’d like to encourage and maybe even challenge you to think about who you can connect with to engage in this dialogue. Some thoughts in taking advantage of the opportunities for excellence include:

  • Bring together individuals within your system to share ideas and practices. These can be small informal local or regional groups or larger system-wide gatherings.
  • Reach out to peer organizations regionally or globally. For example, peers in academic medical centers, rural healthcare clinics, long-term care residential facilities or children’s hospitals can connect virtually to explore and share patient experience ideas
  • Create local networks. Consider connecting with others in your city, county, province or geographic region (such as exemplified by the Value Health Partner’s example above) to connect in person and showcase practices and lessons learned. While competing for volume and excellence in patient experience can be a market differentiator, the ideas and practices you share will only ensure all are improving at this critical effort.
  • Engage in The Beryl Institute. I would be remiss not to extend our warmest welcome, invitation and encouragement to connect with peers around the world in the continuously growing dialogue on patient experience improvement in the Institute (and consider anInstitutional Membership to involve all in your organization).

All of these ideas do not cost much but time, and require the willingness of one or two individuals to step up, and invite others to engage in this important discussion. I am encouraged by the rapidly growing conversation on patient experience excellence and remain convinced that no one organization, vendor, consultant or otherwise should espouse or claim to have all the answers. But you, in connection with your peers very well may have many of the answer you seek, if you choose to do so together. We at the Institute remain committed to creating this environment, where you can both share and learn as we continue to serve as a hub for many other conversations that are, and can be happening, as we ensure the best in experience for all we serve. The next step is yours.

Jason A. Wolf
President
The Beryl Institute

Expanding the dialogue on experience excellence to long term care

When we first developed the definition for patient experience with a group of contributing healthcare leaders, four themes emerged as central to our discussion and ultimately to the definition itself – the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture,that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. These themes shaped the fundamentals for action in providing the best in experience and I still see them as central and imperative across healthcare settings today.

Experience efforts are shaped through the interactions of all individuals involved and grounded in the organization’s culture through which they are delivered. It is the actions of all participants in the care experience – caregivers, support teams, patients and family members alike – that ultimately influence the perceptions of experience and create the lasting impact (and I suggest ripple effect) that each experience has. Experience is a partnership with patients, residents and families, not a doing to, and these words reinforce this critical point.

It is the last element of the definition that is also perhaps the most easily accepted:across the continuum of care. As the patient experience movement has flourished, there has been growing recognition that experience stretches well beyond the four walls of any clinical encounter or the physical structures of the acute care setting. In fact, the ideas of experience, in variations of language including patient, resident or person-centeredness, have permeated the wide array of care experiences one can have in healthcare today. This idea may be no better reinforced than the focus on the experience of individuals in long-term care.

The effort to provide a strong and positive experience for individuals in long-term care is not a new concept. This idea has been addressed in the dialogues of great institutions such as the former Picker Institute and now via Planetree and through organizations such as the Pioneer NetworkLeading Age and the American Health Care Association (AHCA). Partly driven by policy, such as we have seen sweep the US healthcare system in other segments of the continuum with the CAHPS efforts, and framed by what we know to be the right thing to do, long-term care has long been focused on the elements of resident quality, safety and service and the built environment to ensure the best for those in their care.

There is a growing understanding in all environments, that aside from the right thing to do for those in our care, or even a must do, there is also increasing policy focus and requirements that not only measure action, but also tie financial implications to them. Yes, we must acknowledge the financial implications of this effort as well, including the reality that individuals in the healthcare system at all points on the continuum are now consumers – people carefully select doctors, they make decisions on which hospitals to seek care and they look long and hard at the options in selecting a location for a parent or loved one to reside for long-term care needs.

If we accept choice is a factor now in healthcare, then experience matters. In focusing on the continuum of care, it matters to the patients, residents, people in our care, it matters to their families and it matters to all who deliver care as well. It is for this reason we continue to evolve our work at The Beryl institute to expand the experience conversation to all points on the continuum of care and to acknowledge the opportunities at the moments of care transition as well.

We have worked to engage broader voices in the physician practice setting by exploring how experience is being addressed byphysician clinics and groups and our events are expanding to include greater dialogue and content on the important practices taking place in the ambulatory and outpatient settings. With equal focus (and the support of energized and committed members of our community), we are embarking in expanding our efforts to address experience in the long-term care setting as well. In the coming months, through Patient Experience Conference 2015 and beyond, we will work to collaborate with leading thinkers and organizations to reinforce and expand the critical conversation of experience in the long-term care environment. This will include papers, webinars, conference sessions and expanding research into this area of the continuum.

We hope through these efforts and partnerships we can support the critical dialogue of experience at all points on the care continuum. We will strive to continue our growth as a community encouraging and supporting the dialogue among individuals impacting each touch point in the care experience. If we maintain that experience as defined truly crosses the continuum of care, not only is this a critical effort to take on, it is a must do in ensuring that the experience conversation – the critical confluence of quality, safety and service and the fundamental considerations of people, process and place – engages all and includes all voices. We are excited by this next stage of the experience movement and invite and encourage your thoughts, ideas and participation.

Jason. A. Wolf, Ph.D.
President
The Beryl Institute 

Become a Leader in the Patient Experience Movement

I recently received a note from a new member who is early in her career and looking for ways to maximize her membership to get “plugged in” to the Institute and gain credibility within the patient experience community. We get questions like this often. While passionate about getting involved in the patient experience movement, many of our members aren’t quite sure how to get started.

To help, I want to share the suggestions I gave her. I believe they are applicable for patient experience leaders at any stage. First, leadership is not about years of experience. It’s about influence (and willingness to contribute). While healthcare has been around for centuries, a focused patient experience movement is still taking shape at all levels of healthcare organizations. To “plug in” and be a leader, you need to do one thing – share.

The power of sharing is what The Beryl Institute community is built upon and in doing so people reap even greater benefits themselves. Leadership in our movement is grounded in a generosity of spirit and contribution, collaboration and openness.

 The Beryl Institute offers many ways for you to share and be active participants in the patient experience movement.

  • Get engaged in the conversation. That’s the best way to share what you’re doing and learn from others. We have Patient Experience Leaders and Patient Advocacy listservs that are very active. Be sure to sign up for those and respond to questions and/or pose your own. And when you find something that’s successful in your organization – share it through a case study.
  • Attend a live event. We have a very engaged, energetic community and they love meeting and brainstorming with new people. It’s also a great chance to find a mentor. We have two Regional Roundtables coming up in October – one in Boston and one in Seattle. And Patient Experience Conference 2015 will be April 8-10, 2015 in Dallas. If travel is a concern, you can talk to other members via phone on our monthly topic calls.
  • Immerse yourself in the PX Body of Knowledge (BOK). It’s a community-driven framework highlighting the 15 domains critical for an effective PX leader. We currently have courses available for 8 of the 15 domains with the other 7 coming soon. You can gain lots of information from other resources available through your membership, but I always recommend the BOK courses to people looking to establish a solid foundation.

One of our members recently commented that he views his involvement with The Beryl Institute as much more than a membership. He believes his engagement is a bigger statement supporting the patient experience movement. His outlook exemplifies the passion we see everyday from the community.

In fact, I am constantly amazed by the eagerness of our members to contribute, get involved and truly become leaders in the movement. With over 60 members on our boards and councils, subgroups like the Patient Advocacy and Physiciancommunities, and regular contributors to our guest blogcase studies and On the Road program, those desiring to be thought leaders in this critical movement have a place. You just need to choose to engage.

And for the many of you already involved in The Beryl Institute who want to do even more to support the movement, my advice to you is the same: share. One of the greatest ways to be a leader in the patient experience movement is to pass along a story, case study, research report or other resource that might inspire those around you to look at their roles differently, to see the impact they can have on creating the best possible experience for patients, families and caregivers. Simply, share.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”  – Robert Louis Stevenson

Stacy Palmer
Vice President, Strategy and Member Experience
The Beryl Institute

We Each Hold a Piece to the Patient Experience Puzzle

In my most recent Hospital Impact blog I wrote:

Experience is designed to fit your organization and the people in your care. No one provider, no one vendor, no one organization holds the ultimate answer to the experience riddle. The greatest successes I see are those organizations willing to pull from the best of all they can, across all the information available, to meet their unique needs. In proceeding, choose partners and resources that value and integrate your own organizational identity in any plan. That will take you the farthest down the path to experience success.

As I further reflected on those words, I was quick to see and acknowledge a bias I bring to this work. Over the last four years in growing the Institute and through the many years of my career before, I have come to not only value, but also see the true impact that collaboration and the sharing of ideas can have in helping “raise all boats.” Yes, collaboration in organizational life is designed to collectively “raise the tide”. It is something I have often seen a lack of in the competitive landscape of healthcare overall.

I am not saying I do not believe that competition is of value, drives creativity, resourcefulness and positive outcomes; in fact I have seen it do just that. Rather, competition in the critical areas of organizational life, particularly in healthcare and specifically in the experience we provide for patients, their families and our very own staff members is not the greatest path to success. Without question, competition has been a motivating factor in experience, one seen driving action as scores are publicly reported and actual reimbursements and other financial opportunities are at stake. This is of value as the attention given to positive experience leads to better outcomes and holds the potential for establishing significant market distinction.

Yet, what I suggest is that beyond this drive for distinction, the opportunity to learn from one another provides the greatest of potential outcomes for all. The challenge is not (nor should it be) around what to do, but rather your actual commitment to do something about it. I have not visited one organization or engaged with one audience yet that did not already inherently understand the fundamentals to success in driving the best in experience. (Note in discussing experience, I maintain it is the integration of quality, safety and service encounters.) The distinguishing factor I have continued to see is leadership vision and commitment, a willingness to invest and follow through, the right people focused on the right things and the openness to reach out, share successes and learn from others. It is this focus on execution that should (and does) drive true distinction.

This very philosophy, learning from one another, especially in the experience arena, is the central ideology on which The Beryl Institute itself is built. That in creating a true community of practice, with individuals and organizations willing to share their successes and open up about their misses and needs, we have the potential for the greatest impact in healthcare today. It is about creating an organizational experience where individuals, organizations and resource providers can bring new ideas to bear as you determine the best path forward.

While this is built into everything we do throughout the year, it may be no better realized than in the few days we spend together atPatient Experience Conference or at our Regional Roundtables each year. In these few days together, hundreds of people representing hundreds of organizations around the world come together, not to declare “their” way is the right way, but rather to share their ideas as they might work for you. In bringing together the greatest number of voices, open to the broadest range of ideas, you position yourself well for success. In fact with Patient Experience Conference 2015 already on the books, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to share your ideas via a conference submission or ensure you have your attendance slotted for your 2015 budget. You also have two great opportunities to join us and our host organizations Virginia Mason Medical Centerand Boston Children’s for two great roundtable experiences.

Again, I come back to my words I shared above – no one provider, no one vendor, no one organization holds the ultimate answer to the experience riddle. I would offer they each hold a little piece of the bigger puzzle. If we are willing to engage in the dialogue, ask for what we need and share what we know, we are all better for it. Then, it is each of our jobs to ensure it is done and done well.

Jason. A. Wolf, Ph.D.
President
The Beryl Institute

Nurse Leadership Matters in Patient Experience Performance

As shared by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and known by many in practice, nurses represent the single largest group of health professionals who deliver hospital care. This represents a broad range of caregivers from the senior ranks of CEOs or CNOs, to the bedside, from managing triage in emergency departments to conducting post discharge follow-up calls.

Nurse leadership matters in patient experience performance

With this expansive reach, nurses and in particular nurse leaders, have a significant opportunity to impact the experiences of patients and families. I say this reinforcing the strong point found in the definition of patient experience that experience is created in every interaction – meaning by everyone that plays a role in the healthcare system and at all points in the continuum of care, from well before to well after a clinical encounter. With that we would be short sighted to miss the fact that the experience most patients and family members relate to, reflect on and remember is the one they had with their nurses.

In a Hospital Impact blog last year, I wrote about my own experience of quickly leaving at the close of Patient Experience Conference to become a family member at the bedside for the birth of our son. I spoke of Kristen, our L&D nurse, who was responsive and took every opportunity to not only set appropriate expectations, but also answer our questions. She served as a guide through one of life’s most important and incredible moments.

In inquiring why she and other nurses in the unit were so positive and engaged (and not revealing my profession), I was told about how their leaders take time to support the nurse team not simply as individuals there to work, but as professionals, people and partners in care delivery.

In thinking back on this moment I had the chance to share some thoughts with the nurse leaders at my most recent On the Roadsite – Presbyterian Health Services. My realization in the conversations reminded me of how as a family member I had clear expectations about clinical excellence, quality and responsiveness from my nurse team. It was the things they did beyond that though that drove my experience.

As we talked at Presbyterian, it became clear in the dialogue that in the fast-paced world of healthcare, specifically in the nursing realm, nurse leaders have a critical role to play. They set the stage for behavior, they reinforce actions and responses, and they coach, guide, cajole and celebrate with their teams. In the end these nurse leaders, whether aware of it or not, are indirectly driving the experience for so many in their care.

This observation and discussion was supported by the data revealed in the 2013 State of Patient Experience Benchmarking Study. In both the 2011 and 2013 research “clinical managers who visibly support patient experience efforts” was the second greatest driver of experience success after visible support from the top. Here again leadership was reinforced as critical, and more so the clinical managers, those guiding the largest part of the healthcare workforce and with the greatest contact with those served, were identified as central to patient experience performance.

What does all this mean in action. Based on what I have experienced and learned from the many nurse leaders I have had the fortune to work with, the ideas are simple in concept, but sometimes require great effort to execute. Nurse leaders must:

  • Nurture and develop their teams beyond core clinical skills to the behaviors they see as critical to the total delivery of care.
  • Model expectations at all times in their own actions and hold themselves and everyone else accountable when these expectations are broken.
  • Listen and create a space for the words of all team members to be heard. Sometimes the greatest of ideas come from the unlikeliest of sources.
  • Reinforce and create a sense of ownership in staff at all levels that they are leaders in every moment. As every experience happens in the interaction between one human being and another, every individual has the power to choose how they lead in every moment.

In a world where nurse leadership faces continued and growing pressures to perform, these, what some might call, “softer”, non-clinical aspects of leadership and action can easily be pushed aside. But it continues to be the strongest and most successful leaders I see that find the space and time to consider and act on these aspects of the total experience.

It is simple. In whatever way fits their style or the organization in which they provide care, nurse leaders matter in patient experience performance. Of that there is truly no question.

Jason. A. Wolf, Ph.D.
President
The Beryl Institute

In recognition of the importance of nurse leadership in impacting patient experience, The Beryl Institute is excited to join one of our supporting partners, TruthPoint, to offer patient experience resources at the upcoming American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

The Patient Experience Deserves More Than 63%

BlogPic_2014-02I have yet to meet anyone in healthcare who suggests patient experience is not important. In fact, I often hear it said to be “one of our top priorities”, “a central pillar in our strategy” or “a critical initiative for our organization”. I do not question the sincerity of these declarations or the intent they suggest. I also recognize in the highly dynamic world of healthcare today we are in a constant struggle to balance our priorities. With that, I offer these thoughts to shift our thinking in how we approach experience overall.

To frame what I mean about patient experience I return to the definition generated by themembers of The Beryl Institute community – the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. I also want to challenge the perspective of some in equating patient experience only to service and question our inside-out focus in healthcare as we often operationally differentiate quality, safety and service. While we may operate these efforts in distinct and at times competing manners, I do not believe patients distinguish between these areas. Yes, we must focus on quality, safety and service and align the appropriate resources to each, but we must address these efforts from the eyes of our consumer and the perspective that they together create but one experience.

As I have continued to hear patient experience identified as a strategic priority, it has caused me to ask, does this mean based on needs there are then specific times when we actually focus on it (and therefore times we don’t). That is, do we truly focus on every one of our priorities at all times? Continuing this thought, if patient experience is seen as an initiative, it has all but been declared a limited effort, for every initiative I have experienced in healthcare and elsewhere has a beginning, middle and therefore an end. Do we truly think the patient experience is an idea where the effort eventually concludes?

These ideas around alignment, priority and initiative were supported in the findings of the 2013 Benchmarking Study, The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals. The research revealed something one could potentially overlook in all that was uncovered. In the U.S. Hospital System the individual with primary responsibility for patient experience spends 63% of their time on these efforts. In contrast, I do not know of a CFO that spends 63% of his time on finances. The data itself reinforces the opportunity we may very well be missing. Have we made patient experience a 63% priority? If we take that to the extreme, does that mean it is only something we consider for 63 out of every 100 patients we see? I do not believe any organization or leader has done this intentionally, but it does cause us to hopefully stop and think about how we lead and operate our organizations and systems.

I know those in healthcare are more committed than what the number reveals. We are an industry of caring and compassionate people who give all they can in every moment. But the data opens our eyes to the opportunities we have. Perhaps what we have lost in our efforts to address patient experience is our realization that experience is all we are about in healthcare. I know that if any one of us were laying on an exam table, recovering in a bed, or sitting holding the hand of a family member that we would not expect anything less than 100%. In fact I believe we would say we want the best in quality, safety and service – the best experience – in every encounter. I believe we all do want the best in patient experience for all those in our care. I hope we too agree the patient experience deserves more than 63%. So how can we start to do things differently today? I look forward to your thoughts.

Jason. A. Wolf, Ph.D.
President
The Beryl Institute

Regardless of U.S. Supreme Court Decision, Patient Experience is Central to the Future of Healthcare

One question I was consistently asked in anticipation of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision was what impact the outcome would have on the importance of patient experience. My response was unwavering; that if healthcare organizations are simply driven by policy or perceived political pressure they might want to reconsider their true purpose and very existence. Regardless of the outcome of last week’s decision, I believe the increasing focus on experience in healthcare is more than practical or pragmatic; it is central to the highest quality healthcare encounter.

This week I was posed the question again during a workshop I had the privilege of leading titled Shaping Healthcare Experience: The Power of Interaction. The audience included healthcare and service professionals from across Europe. The discussions that were ignited and the passion with which the participants engaged in the subject supported my belief that the effort to achieve excellence in patient experience is not simply a phenomenon in the United States or one simply driven by policy. This is also reinforced by the fact that over 23 countries are represented as members and guests of The Beryl Institute itself. Patient experience is a without question a fundamental and global discussion.

Whether it is global perspective or political or policy motivations, those of us engaged in healthcare in whatever capacity need to consider the impact of our work on the experience of patients and families. As I discussed in my workshop, we are all touched by healthcare in some way either directly or indirectly through family or friends. More so we are aware of not just the outcomes, but also the stories we take from those encounters. Those stories are comprised of powerful and important interactions – as suggested by the Institute’s definition of patient experience as “the sum of all interactions…” In the workshop I posed the question of which interactions are most important in the healthcare encounter. After a long brainstorming effort the realization was that every interaction from the most critical clinical interventions to the almost unnoticeable or mundane encounters collectively equate to the experience people have and all are equally important.

At their core, each of those interactions is about a choice. As healthcare organizations you choose how to structure processes or determine what behaviors and expectations to establish and reinforce. With this, healthcare organizations are also held to the individual choices their people make at every touch point across the care continuum. It is here where you may be making things more complicated then necessary. By focusing on policy or political constraints you overlook the simplest of human factors; that people most often want to do the right thing. What must be done as leaders is to provide the support, the environment, the culture in which the right choices can be made, the right interactions provided and the best of experiences ensured.

I hope we can shift the discussion on experience from “why” and “what”, from policy or politics, to understanding there is a fundamental choice to provide the best experience possible for our patients, families and guests. In the desire to engineer this process we overlook the basic fact that healthcare at its core is human beings caring for human beings. In recognizing this, you ensure patient experience is a central and driving force to a continuously improving global healthcare system. It just starts with a simple choice.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute