The Conversation on Patient Experience Improvement Continues: A Reflection on Three Years

Most people would suggest that change doesn’t happen overnight, and while I believe change does take time, it does not need to take a lot of time. In fact, change, like most things in life, requires nothing more complicated than a simple choice. It is this same idea – the power of choice – that I use to frame all my discussions on patient experience improvement.

I share this idea of choice and change on the week that The Beryl Institute itself turns three years old. As we have seen the patient experience movement grow and flourish, it too has been a journey of change and choice. From the very first member signing on in September 2010, to the now over 18,000 members and guests from 45 countries around the world, The Beryl Institute community has made big choices and as a result driven big change.
Over the course of the last few years I have written about engagement, involvement and community and I am excited to say that the state of The Beryl Institute community is strong. We have seen a growing use of thedefinition of patient experience. We have also experienced almost a doubling in organizations having a formal definition of patient experience (something we stress as critical) as revealed in the 2013 State of Patient Experience study and represented in the recent powerful infographic of the findings. We have also been inspired by the growing “#IMPX” movement with increasing numbers of organizations creating compelling videos of their teams reinforcing the message – “I am the Patient Experience”!

At the Institute, we have also worked hard to ensure all voices are engaged in the conversation on patient experience improvement. We have authored an extensive series of publications to be a resource to all those working to impact the patient experience – from the C-Suiteto the front lines from students to patient and family members. This effort has been expanded by the launch of the first of its kind Global Patient and Family Advisory Council to ensure this critical perspective is central to all we do. It has been supported by not only our virtual community connections, but also the consistently growing annual Patient Experience Conference providing practitioners the space to reconnect and reenergize every year.

In shaping the knowledge and information base for patient experience improvement, we have led the effort to create a comprehensive body of knowledge focused on developing patient experience leadership now and into the future and guided by the input of over 400 healthcare leaders around the world. We have also awarded over 25 patient experience grants to support direct research projects on patient experience improvement where it is taking place – on the front lines. Most recently we have announced the launch of The Patient Experience Journal, a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed publication designed to share ideas and research, and reinforce key concepts that impact the experience of patients and families across healthcare settings.

The full history of the Institute is rich, but more importantly it exemplifies the very power of choice and of community I mention above. It was the choices of so many that made these offerings and resources possible. It will be the continued contributions of community members that will maintain this growth and drive the patient experience movement forward. These choices have led to great change and our hope is to continue to support this growth by providing a gathering place for ideas, a dynamic space for interaction and a vibrant hub for continued dialogue on patient experience improvement. We have arrived at this point with the guidance, leadership and support of so many around the globe…for this we are forever grateful. We now humbly go forth knowing there is much more work left to do. Happy Anniversary to you, this passionate and engaged community. We celebrate how far we have come together and look forward to continuing this journey with you!

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

Patient Experience and the Freedom of Choice

IPatient Experience and the Freedom of CHoice - The Beryl Instituten writing a blog for a US-based, global organization on the week of July 4th, I am hard pressed not to think about the concepts of independence, of freedom and of what those concepts provide for. To be independent, to be of free will, is something most, if not all, aspire to. It is ingrained in our human nature, for at its base is an idea so simple, yet at times so complex – the power of choice. For me this concept of choice is the essence of patient experience itself.

When I talk to people about the strategies and tactics of patient expedience improvement, I start with the simple recognition that what we do in healthcare – as human beings caring for human beings – is about the choices we make. From leaders guiding organizations on what priorities are set each day, to frontline caregivers across healthcare settings we are making choices in every moment, not just on what care to deliver, but how to deliver it as well.

This power of choice is profoundly important, and of increasing influence in our healthcare systems today. While we once may have gone directly to our local physician or hospital and listened intently with respect, following every word and instruction, the nature of healthcare itself has changed. I know to some this poses a great concern and others even disdain. For me, it reveals the true potential for excellence we have in healthcare systems around the world.

The debate has long simmered on if patients are customers of care. Using this term allows supporters of the historic healthcare hierarchy to diminish the very voice of patients, most often unintentionally. And you may be surprised to hear that I agree. Patients for the most part in healthcare today are not the customers of care. Customers are those individuals or organizations that choose to pay for a product of service. In fact following this logic, most often, insurance companies and/or government entities are the true customers of healthcare as they are the one’s directly funding services or paying the bill.

What does this mean then for our choice as patients? While many rightly make the argument, that as patients we do not choose to fall ill, have an accident, etc., that is we do not most often choose to be customers of healthcare, we overlook what I suggest above – that as human beings we still have choice. This distinguishes to me where patient experience plays it most significant role, especially economically. Patients are without question consumers of healthcare, regardless of systems, locality or structures. From an economic perspective it is the consumer who drives markets and influences business viability. Consumerism is the consideration that the free choice of individuals strongly influences what is offered to a market, what grows and what is overlooked. Therefore consumers and the choice they bring have strong economic impact.

The bottom line is that as patients have independence, even with some constraints based on insurance or in governmental healthcare systems, and therefore they have choice. Patients will note where the experience – the culmination of quality, safety and service – is best. And they wont keep it secret. Outside of the increasing use of government surveys globally to measure and publicly report performance, other consumer outlets are quickly booming – have you yelped your physician’s office lately, or seen the dialogue on Facebook about the care in your local hospital? This is consumerism at its finest and it is having great impact.

Patients have discovered they too have choice in the system, to not just expect, but to directly ask for and seek the best care they can find. Yes, patients do not choose a healthcare encounter like they would a hotel or an entertainment experience, they actually do so MORE significantly because this choice is about their own or a family member or friend’s well-being. A dear colleague, an inspiration for patients as true consumers of care, and a contributor to our Voices of Patients and Family paper – “e-Patient Dave” deBronkart clearly expresses the need for us as patients and family to choose to engage in our care, in ensuring we are fully informed and in doing so make the right choices.

I too am reminded about a story a gentlemen shared once with me about his 80-year old mother who when finding she needed hip replacement, scoured the internet for information on the procedure, recovery times, outcomes, etc. She discovered, that while scheduled for surgery at her local hospital (where she had gone for years), there was a better place for her to have her surgery in another state a plane ride away. She booked the ticket, made the trip and had her surgery. Now while all patients choices may not be that extreme, we must acknowledge that we all have choice – in some ways it is all we have – in how we decide to deliver care or on where we decide to receive it.

On a week where independence is held high, it is important that we remember it is not just a holiday in the United States, but a statement about the very freedom we have as individuals, as consumers: the freedom to choose. The Declaration of Independence declared that individuals “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There may be no stronger place for us to remember these choices than in the decisions affecting our health. As healthcare leaders we must remember this, as caregivers honor it, and as patients and families never forget – the choice is truly ours.

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

 

Your Patient Experience Priority for 2012 May Be as Simple as Taking the First Step

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.
Executive Director
The Beryl Institute

The Power of Interaction: You are the Patient Experience

In looking back at 2011, I have touched on a cross-section of topics on the patient experience – from service excellence and anticipation to value-based purchasing and bottom line impact. This year has led us to heightened awareness of the impact performance scores will have on dollars realized and increasing recognition that the patient experience is a priority with staying power. The Beryl Institute’s benchmarking study, The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals, revealed both the great intentions and significant challenges that are at hand in addressing the critical issue of patient experience.

Our research supports, and I fundamentally believe, that there is a need for a dedicated and focused patient experience leader in every healthcare organization. Yet in the midst of all this attention, we may have overlooked the most important component – the immense power, significant impact and immeasurable value of a single interaction.

What does this mean? Interaction is simply defined as a mutual or reciprocal action or influence. The key is mutual action; something that occurs directly between two individuals. No interaction is the same, but it requires a choice by both parties to engage and respond as they best see fit. In healthcare settings, be it hospitals, medical offices, surgery centers or outpatient clinics, there are countless interactions every day. The question is: are they taken for granted as situations that just occur or are they seen as significant opportunities to impact experience? Perhaps in thinking about experience as a bigger issue, the importance of these moments of personal relationship has been missed.

What this means for improving the patient experience may be simple. Rather than waiting for that one leader to build the right plan or for your culture to develop in just the right way, you each instead recognize one key fact – you are the patient experience. I acknowledge there is a need for a strong leader and a solid cultural foundation on which to build, but at its core patient experience is about what each and every individual chooses to do at the most intimate moment of interaction. If these moments are used as the building blocks to achieve our greatest of intentions, patient experience will be the better for it. As you look to next year, whether you sweep the floors or sit in the c-suite, the choice should be clear. In today’s chaotic world of healthcare, the greatest moment of impact may be in the smallest of encounters. It is here that the most significant successes be they for scores, dollars or care will be realized. Happy holidays to you all!

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

The Smart Thing to Do: Patient Experience and the Bottom Line

Most now agree that patient experience is not just a nice to do, it is a must do. The idea of patient experience has recently taken on greater significance, first, through the emergence of surveys such as HCAHPS that make performance transparent and followed by the reality that reimbursement dollars, performance pay and compensation are being tied to outcomes through policy being implemented around the world. Improving the patient experience is also what is right to do. It is about providing the type of care experience for patients and families that you would want for yourself and your loved ones.

But recognizing patient experience as both a must do and a right to do, is not enough. It should also be addressed as the smart thing to do. Why? The patient experience has true financial implications for healthcare organizations that reach well beyond regulations. With all that is done to address patient experience from the cultural, organizational and process sides, we also need to consider its financial implications. This is perhaps the area that patient experience champions have focused on the least, but could have the most significant impact in making the case for the important work being done.

Patient experience influences the performance of healthcare organizations on a number of fronts. In The Beryl Institute’s newest white paper, Return on Service: The Financial Impact of Patient Experience, three perspectives are suggested as we look at the bottom line impact of the patient experience: financial, marketing and clinical.

  • From the financial perspective, it has been shown that satisfied patients lead to higher profitability. In a 2008 J.D. Power study, it was discovered that hospitals scoring in the top quartile in satisfaction had over two times the margin of those at the bottom. These findings were supported by the 2008 Press Ganey paper, Return on Investment: Increasing Profitability by Improving Patient Satisfaction. The paper revealed that when hospitals were ranked by profitability into quartiles, the most profitable hospitals had the highest average satisfaction scores.
  • From the marketing perspective, we need to look no further than the power of word of mouth. In her 2004 article, Jacqueline Zimowski shared that a satisfied patient tells three other people about a positive experience.  In contrast, a dissatisfied patient tells up to 25 others about a negative experience.  The issue worsens, as for every patient that complains, there are 20 other dissatisfied patients that do not. And of those dissatisfied patients that don’t complain, only 1 in 10 will return. When you run the numbers, for every complaint you hear, you could be losing a potential 18 patients. In essence by not focusing on experience we are potentially driving patients away.
  • From the clinical perspective, we must be clear to recognize that experience and quality are not distinct efforts but critically interwoven aspects of overall care. Patient Experience is not just about pretty or quiet environments, positive service scripting or even consistent rounding. At the end of the day it is about ensuring our patients leave better than when they arrived (as often as we can). This was exemplified in a powerful way in the 2011 study, Relationship Between Patient Satisfaction with Inpatient Care and Hospital Readmission Within 30 Days, reported by Boulding et al. They examined quality factors (as defined by CMS Core Measures, specifically on acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia) and satisfaction factors (as determined by the two HCAHPS questions – How do you rate the hospital overall? and Would you recommend the hospital to friends and family?) in relationship to readmission rates within 30 days of discharge. The finding was surprising. The HCAHPS scores, i.e. experience outcomes, were reliable and even more predictable indicators of readmissions than quality indicators. In essence, patient experience, herein measured by HCAHPS was a distinct and measurable driver of readmissions, a key quality issue and a significant financial issue for healthcare organizations and one taking on even greater interest as it will impact future reimbursements that hospitals are eligible to receive.

As healthcare leaders take on the challenge of patient experience, it is important to recognize that it reaches well beyond simple measures of satisfaction. A commitment to patient experience has significant and measurable impact, not only in doing what is right for the people and communities you serve, but also in ensuring the best quality and most financially sound experience for all who are in and who deliver your care. To be responsible stewards for healthcare systems that are both vital and viable, it is essential to recognize and be willing to address the bottom line issues influenced by patient experience efforts every day. It is the smart thing to do!

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