Considerations for Patient Experience Excellence: 2016

2016-01 jan2016blogAs we have watched the patient experience movement grow in the last five years of our journey at The Beryl Institute, we have seen increasing levels of commitment to this effort and a refocusing on what matters versus simply what is measured. Many began their involvement in patient experience efforts purely due to motivation by policy, measurement and then eventually financial implications for outcomes. These dynamic shifts driven by policy in the United States were not unique to the country, but rather we have experienced a global wave of acknowledgement of and commitment to action around addressing the experience in healthcare.

What has stirred this broader global movement and created a dynamic shift in how healthcare operates regardless of system or policy? I offer it is connectivity and proximity – not necessarily physical proximity, but what I would call “social proximity”. Social proximity, driven by connectivity, access to information, an open willingness to share ideas, constant access to research, news and even rumors all contribute to an environment for humankind that has dramatically shifted in the last decade and with increasing speed in the last few years.

So what are the implications for this on patient experience? We are now at a critical turning point where one can no longer diminish or downplay that experience matters. In fact, I would warn those that do or more so resist or fight this shift, that you will soon be swallowed up by the tides if you choose not to climb aboard. We are at a pivotal time in the journey due to these and many other dynamics changing how we deliver care and how consumers of care perceive and expect it.

2016 provides an interesting transition point now 15 years into this rapidly flowing century. In thinking about the year ahead, I offer some considerations whether patient and family member, healthcare provider or a company providing services and resources to healthcare – we are now all in this together.

  • Experience is a MACRO issue. We are no longer talking about “experience of care” as first portrayed in the Triple Aim. Rather we are now readily acknowledging and acting to encompass quality, safety, service, cost, environment, transitions and all the spaces in between in the experience equation
  • Patient and family (consumer) voice is stronger than it has ever been (and won’t be quieting down any time soon). Patients have found their voices in new ways and are showing a fearless willingness to challenge what was once a paternalistic model to raise their own wants and needs.
  • Technology is no longer a differentiator, i.e., specifically saying you are engaging in technology solutions. It will be how you use technology, the information it can provide and the way it impacts your ability to provide care and more positive experiences that will matter most.
  • Tactics, even strong ones may move you forward, but will not support you in achieving ultimate success. There is now a clear recognition that experience efforts are no longer driven simply by a list of tactics, but rather by comprehensive strategies with unwavering focus and committed investment.
  • The “soft stuff” matters and all engaged in healthcare are expressing this in their own ways. Our latest State of Patient Experience study reinforced this very point; that culture, leadership and the people in your organization are the primary keys to driving strong outcomes and overall success.
  • We need to stop calling the “soft stuff” soft. It is perhaps the most challenging and intense area of focus we can and should have in organizational life. Culture change, aligning leadership, ensuring actively engaged people is perhaps the hardest work we can take on. So while deemed soft (perhaps even as an excuse for an inability to affect them), we cannot relent in a commitment to make these efforts central to any plan.
  • “Sharing is cool” – yes for you parents out there I just quoted Pete the Cat (Pete’s Big Lunch to be exact). It remains astonishing to me how so much of what we espouse to our children as critical skills, we lose as we move forward in our careers. Experience excellence is driven not by how much you know as an organization, but rather how much you are willing to share. A value-based world competes on the execution to excellence not simply volume and we should not be hypnotized by one “way” as sacred. It is in our willingness so share broadly and openly that we collectively win. The new healthcare environment calls on us to do this.
  • The global dialogue on experience excellence is emerging as boundary-less and systems will look beyond organizational constraints to the commonalities they can find in driving the best in outcomes for all being cared for or caring for others.

I conclude with one more consideration:

  • Aim high, but start where you have solid ground. I remain resolute that we all have a commitment, whether we have yet acknowledged it or not, to provide the best in experience in healthcare (and must be willing to fully engage in what experience encompasses). Change will increasingly be transformational in healthcare and in simple choices great shifts can occur, but it will take the building blocks of success on which to reach the greatest heights.

Icarus, who in an act of great hubris and in an attempt to achieve it all, flew too close to the sun with his wax wings and fell to the sea. As we look to 2016, we must never let the big ideas fade from view or the small ideas impede our progress. It will be finding a way in which to move each of our organizations forward from where they are, with an understanding that the world is dramatically shifting all around us with increasing speed, where success can be achieved. This is our new world in healthcare and in the patient experience movement that now churns at its core. I believe if we are clear in our efforts and intent, we can and will achieve the best in outcomes for all. Here is to a great year ahead.

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

How Will You Inspire the Patient Experience Movement? Four Considerations for 2014

InspiredI am inspired. The New Year has arrived with great energy at The Beryl Institute. We start 2014 as a global community of practice of over 20,000 professionals, focused without hesitation on ensuring the best in experience for patients, families and one another in healthcare.

I am inspired by the continued commitments expressed for this work: by The Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Scholars who met recently to share their research and reinforce their willingness to encourage and support others; by the members of the Global Patient & Family Advisory Council who want to influence how patients and family members are heard and engaged in making a profound difference in healthcare; by the many contributing to the development of the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge courses soon to be available to the community; and by many more.

I am inspired by how in the first two weeks of a new year, such commitment and intent can emerge, built on all that has come before and focused with purpose on the great opportunities ahead. As I reflect on this idea, a question emerged and perhaps a challenge for each of us to consider:

How will you inspire the patient experience movement in the year ahead?

I pose this question with the hope that actions and considerations from the smallest moments of unparalleled kindness to the largest strategic triumphs all find room to take root and grow. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, but in this diversity it has strong commonalities – it causes us to feel a sense of something special and powerful. It provides a boundless energy to influence, lead, change and make a difference. This is an exciting prospect in seeing that each of us can choose to have an impact. And while no two actions will be exactly alike, I do want to offer a few thoughts on how you can continue to frame your patient experience efforts to inspire yourself and others.

As we return to the definition of patient experience, I continue to experience its relevance time-and-time again in the application of these words to central actions associated with excellence. In reviewing its words – the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions, across the continuum of care – I again see clear directions on moving your own experience efforts forward. They include:

1. Reinforce strategic focus. Patient experience has proven itself to be a relevant part of the healthcare conversation. It has surpassed the challenges of being dubbed a fad; it too has shown it has stronger legs than just serving as a policy framework. Experience is a central strategic pillar to organizational performance and success. Patient Experience in its broadest sense should be a clear and transparent component of every healthcare organization’s strategy.

2. Clarify and map your critical interactions. Experience doesn’t happen on billboards or in espoused actions, it happens at the most personal moments, at those points of engagement between one individual and another. The ultimate tool in patient experience improvement is your self, your heart, your hands and arms, your minds, your compassion and your common sense. We have a huge opportunity to map the interactions that occur on the patient path to ensure we consider the most effective way to respond at every touch point.

3. Model desired behaviors. Simply put, if interactions drive experience, then the behaviors that comprise them are the conduits that direct these interactions in one way or another. Organizational culture is shaped by behaviors, they represent the people, presence and purpose of an organization overall and no slogan, policy or program will trump the power of individual behavior. We must model, observe, coach and improve constantly to impact experience outcomes.

4. Expand your listening. As we ended 2013 exploring the Voices of Measurement, we learned that the power of data is only as valid as what we choose to do with it. Collection or reporting data for the sake of data misses the opportunity for learning and relevant action. To capitalize on the value of the voices that surround us in healthcare we must expand our listening. Experience is measured first in the direct voices of healthcare consumers, who remain our most significant mirror into our own efforts, but it is also found in the voices of our peers and colleagues. We are only capable of achieving our strategy through our people. They are much more than pawns to direct, but rather living resources accountable for ensuring excellence.

Perhaps these ideas will help spark your own thoughts on how you will choose to inspire the patient experience movement. Regardless of which direction you go, I hope you recognize the power that exists in your own personal choice and the ability to impact the experience of the person that is coming next. The year ahead can and should be about a great many things both personally and professionally. My hope is that you find you can and will be an inspiration in your efforts. This cause is too great for your efforts to be anything less. Now the question remains, what will you do? I look forward to your updates with great anticipation.

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

7 Steps to Accountability: A Key Ingredient in Improving Patient Experience

As I continue to visit healthcare organizations and engage with leaders globally there are clear emerging trends at the heart of effective efforts to address the patient and family experience. In my recent series of blogs I suggest we must recognize the implications of patient perceptions as a focus of our patient experience efforts. I support this by reinforcing that culture is a critical choice for organizations to consider in terms of how they look to shape those perceptions. In fact we cannot overlook the centrality of culture to the very definition of patient experience overall. I add that it is on a strong cultural foundation that we can then ensure a sense of engagement for our staff and patients.

The missing piece in this important dialogue is that of building a foundation of accountability in our healthcare organizations. It has been identified as a top issue for healthcare leaders during my On the Road visits and at our Regional Roundtable gatherings. In looking at all the suggested paths and plans to accountability some general themes emerge.

Building a basis for accountability in organizations requires a number of committed actions. Without these organizations run the risk of falling short on their defined patient experience objectives. They include:

1. Establish focused standards/expectations – Determine and clearly define what you expect in behaviors and actions as you create a culture of accountability.

2. Set clear consequences for inaction and rewards and recognition for action – Be willing to reinforce expectations consistently and use as opportunities for learning.

3. Provide learning opportunities to understand and see expectations in action – Ensure staff at all levels are clear on expected behaviors and consequences.

4. Communicate expectations, reinforcing what and why consistently and continuously – Keep expectations top of mind and be clear that these are part of who you are as an organization in every encounter.

5. Observe and evaluate staff at all levels providing feedback and/or coaching as needed – Turn actual encounters, good or bad, into learning moments and opportunities to ensure people are clear on expected behaviors and actions.

6. Execute on consequences immediately and thoughtfully – Respond rapidly when people miss the mark (or when people excel) to ensure people are aware of the importance of your expectations.

7. Revisit expectations often to ensure they meet the needs and objectives of the organization – Remember standard and expectations are dynamic and change with your organization’s needs. They must stay in tune with who you are as an organization (your values) and where you intend to go (your vision).

Accountability has been tossed around more and more in conversations today in healthcare organizations as something that leaders want to see more of. The reality is that accountability is not just something you simply expect and it just miraculously appears, it is something you must intentionally create expectations for and reinforce. As with patient experience itself, accountability needs a plan in order to ensure effective execution.

I often speak of patient experience efforts as a choice; one that requires rigorous work. This is overcoming something I call the performance paradox, which helps us recognize that many things we see as simple, clear and understandable are not always easy, trouble-free and painless to do. Yet I would suggest we have no other choice. As a positive patient experience is something we owe to our patients and their families in our healthcare settings, creating and sustaining a culture of accountability is something we actually owe to our staff in supporting their ability to create unparalleled experience.

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