How Will You Invest in Patient Experience in 2016?

2015-12 BlogWe recently celebrated our first five years as a community of practice and looked back, somewhat in awe, at the incredible growth of this organization over such a short time. The Beryl Institute is now a global community of almost 40,000 individuals passionate about improving the healthcare experience for patients, families and caregivers.

The momentum continues, as does the realization that organizations are making significant investments in time, energy and dollars to ensure they are prepared to deliver the best possible patient experience. We see these investments in many forms from hiring teams to training leaders and staff to building and supporting cultures of excellence.

As we shared in the 2015 State of Patient Experience Benchmarking study, senior patient experience leadership and staff investment is growing with 42% of respondents having a Chief Experience Officer (or comparable position) compared to only 22% two years ago.  Along with that, the size of patient experience teams is growing; 33% of organizations reported having five or more staff members supporting patient experience efforts.

The Beryl Institute community reflects this trend as well. This year over 200 organizations will invest in institutional membership – meaning they provide unlimited access to the Institute’s white papers, webinars, topic calls, learning bites, etc. to everyone within their facility. They are making a statement that people in ALL roles impact the patient experience and should have access to research and collaboration that will assist their efforts.

We have also seen tremendous interest in learning and professional development programs intended to train patient experience leaders and other staff. We recently increased our virtual classroom offerings in the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge courses to support growing participation in the community-developed program that provides Certificates in Patient Experience Leadership and Patient Advocacy.

Patient Experience Conference had its largest attendance to date this year and we were honored to partner with member organizations to host sold out Regional Roundtable events in San Francisco, Charlotte and Minneapolis. Our community is eager to gain (and share) knowledge and to invest in their personal career growth. In fact, today our sister organization, Patient Experience Institute, will offer the first testing opportunity for those hoping to earn their CPXP, the professional certification for Patient Experience Leaders.

While we’re excited to celebrate the five-year milestone, we acknowledge how much work is still to be done. We imagine (and hope to help inspire) a world where all healthcare organizations appreciate the power and impact of patient experience efforts and make without hesitation the investments necessary to be the best they can be for patients and families.

Earlier this year we released Our Stand, a list of guiding principles we’ve identified in our five years of leading this work that can have significant impact on patient experience success. I share them again as a reminder as you evaluate your own efforts and consider what investment opportunities make sense to support your specific needs.

We believe organizations and systems committed to providing the best in experience WILL:

  • Identify and support accountable leadership with committed time and focused intent to shape and guide experience strategy
  • Establish and reinforce a strong, vibrant and positive organizational culture and all it comprises
  • Develop a formal definition for what experience is to their organization
  • Implement a defined process for continuous patient and family input and engagement
  • Engage all voices in driving comprehensive, systemic and lasting solutions
  • Look beyond clinical experience of care to all interactions and touch points
  • Focus on alignment across all segments of the continuum and the spaces in between
  • Encompass both a focus on healing and a commitment to well-being

As you prepare for the coming year I challenge you to reflect on your organization’s commitment to experience improvement. Where are you exceling and where are your opportunities to do even more for your patients, families, caregivers and staff? Our patient experience community is here to support your journey and I encourage you to take full advantage of the incredible resources and knowledge available.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a successful New Year!

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

Reframing the Core Values for Patient Experience

2015-11 blockbwWhen we began the patient experience journey at The Beryl Institute just five years ago, we were surprised to find that in a healthcare landscape peppered with talk of patient centeredness and an expanding dialogue on patient engagement and grounded in the fundamental principles of quality and patient safety, there was not an overarching discussion on the broader experience of patients and families – beyond that is what was dubbed the patient experience of care. I believe we have from and through that time to today come to recognize that when we talk about experience – the healthcare experience – it encompasses all those ideas. We can also acknowledge that in its simplest of forms, patients, family members and loved ones and individuals serving as care providers or in support services all have an experience in healthcare every day – whether it is strategically planned or just left to fate.

For this reason, in our first steps at the Institute, we gathered a team of individuals to wrap our arms around what we meant in discussing the patient experience. From the contributions of many voices, we found a broad and encompassing idea. That patient experience is the sum of all interactions shaped by an organizations’ culture that influences patient perceptions across the continuum of care. The simplicity of these words was meant, and still does mean, to reflect much more. Experience is about interactions across the continuum, in the spaces in between, grounded in who we are as organizations in our actions and engagement with both those who encounter and work within them. Ultimately, it is about the partnership we establish with patients and the perceptions they take away. These are the lasting ripples of personal and quality care that represents the dimensionality of any human journey across the healthcare continuum today.

This need for definition was reinforced by the rapid focus on these core ideas in the experience conversation and was supported by an integrated and broad conversation on what the patient experience, and the healthcare experience, truly means today. In continuing to watch these ideas in action, I also saw a pattern emerging in those organizations with a commitment and focus on positive outcomes. Interestingly enough, these same ideas were evolving as fundamental to who we were at The Beryl Institute ourselves, as a collective community of front line caregivers and healthcare executives, resources providers and consultants, physicians, patients and families alike. What we saw emerging was a core set of values fundamental to community and experience success overall.

In this, we came to offer the following ideas as core values for our work at The Beryl Institute. I, too, believe in traveling the experience journey over the last five years and seeing all the good being done in providing the best in experience that these values, whether made explicit or not, are central to experience excellence overall. They include:

  • Accessibility: A commitment to open access, a spirit of generosity and the active invitation to engage and contribute that continuously expands reach and sustains growth
  • Agility: The ability to rapidly reconfigure and realign resources to lead new directions and respond as needed within the industry
  • Innovation: A vigilance in continuously searching for new ways of thinking, doing and disseminating ideas
  • Inclusivity: The purposeful consideration of expansive ideas and the engagement of all voices to ensure the broadest perspective and awareness
  • Collaboration: A recognition that overall success is driven by a willingness to partner with others in the sharing of ideas, information and action that ensures better outcomes for all involved

In a healthcare marketplace now expanding its efforts to get at not just the science of healthcare, but the humanity on which it is built, reframing and aligning around a set of core values becomes a fundamental opportunity. As we see efforts now to broaden the conversation, just years ago grounded in clinical checklists alone to now purposefully engaging in not just how patients and families are cared for, but also the fulfillment and well-being of those providing care, we are experiencing a fundamental shift.

I do not believe we ever forgot that this was a caring industry; rather, our caring came in appropriate models. In reframing our efforts around shared values – on a sense of openness and a mindset of abundance; on the capacity of agility, not just a willingness to change; on the acknowledgement that the status quo leaves us slipping behind in the face of a world of innovation; that all voices matter and must be sought with intention; and that in a world of value, competition is now driven in how we execute and in the sharing, not in the secreting of ideas – we are setting a foundation for perhaps one of the most revolutionary periods in healthcare. A focus on experience, on what it represents and the values on which it is built is not a soft idea. Rather it is the bedrock on which the best in outcomes will be built for years to come. It is quality, safety and service, it is cost and the health of our populations globally, it is about the well-being of those delivering care and it is represented in an integrated perspective of bringing ideas together. That is the opportunity we have been presented with today. Our choice now is a simple one: take the first step and act.

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

A Research Agenda for Patient Experience Excellence

penpicAs we continue our work at The Beryl Institute in moving the patient experience conversation from one at the fringes of healthcare just a few years ago to a central discussion point in healthcare globally today, we remain committed to developing a true field of practice for this work. This idea, of building a field and framing a profession, requires some fundamental cornerstones be put in place. This includes a professional community from which ideas are percolated and connections are made, a foundational and widely supported body of knowledge that drives professional alignment, a process for identifying and certifying those formal professionals in the field and a solid grounding in research from both an academic and practitioner perspective.

The community is represented by the over 35,000 of you around the world actively involved in accessing and engaging with resources of The Beryl Institute. The Body of Knowledge continues to find great value and expanding reach now through not only a conceptual framework, but also 15 full courses and the ability to achieve certificates of completion for coursework in Patient Experience Leadership and Patient Advocacy. Formal certification is now available through The Beryl Institute’s sister organization – Patient Experience Institute (PXI) – with the inaugural offering of the Certified Patient Experience Professional exam later this year. The first class of CPXPs, our profession’s pioneers, will be announced early next year. All of these efforts have been born from the contributions of hundreds of voices across our global community.

The last cornerstone builds on this idea of community contribution. It is a focus on rigorous research, and the importance of expanding the research agenda for patient experience. This has been building over the 5-year history of The Beryl Institute; first with the establishment of thePatient Experience Grant Program in June of 2010 (applications for the 2015 Grant and Scholar programs are open now), followed by the launch of the open access, peer-reviewed, Patient Experience Journal (PXJ) in April of 2014 (the next call for submissions closes January 2016), and lastly through PXI’s expanding philanthropic outreach to establish even greater support of research efforts (opportunities to donate will soon be available).

This type of reflective thinking, is seen in such government-supported programs as the groundbreaking comparative effectiveness work found at The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), whose mandate is specifically “to improve the quality and relevance of evidence available to help patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, insurers, and policy makers make informed health decisions.” It is also seen in many of the recent efforts supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and their focus on patient and family engagement.

And while there are even other efforts taking place, I still believe we have a significant opportunity to tackle the real tangible nature of the human experience in healthcare itself. The essence of these opportunities is reflected in the patient experience grants, in recent journal articles found in PXJ and elsewhere. When I look to the definition of patient experience itself and the simple, yet intricate nature of the key concepts such as interactions, organization culture, perceptions and cross continuum issues, all linked to outcomes and driven by safe, quality-focused, high reliability, service-driven efforts, there are incredible variables to explore at each point on the continuum of care and across all segments of the healthcare experience. This reaches from chronic illnesses to primary care encounters, long-term residential issues to rural settings or underserved populations. Underlying it all is the nature of human dignity and respect we all know is central to providing the best in healthcare overall.

To drive these ideas, we need to continue to frame, refresh and execute on a robust, thoughtful and I dare say edgy research agenda for patient experience. This is not research to just validate the usefulness of new solutions, but rigorous explorations of what practices, processes, systems, behaviors, communication styles, engagement efforts, tactics and tools not only show promise, but lead to lasting and sustained positive outcomes.

I ask you as the patient experience community what it is that we need to be asking, exploring and proving on we move forward. Are there practices you have taken for granted we could test? How can we explore key elements of the Guiding Principles for Patient Experience Excellence and determine which have the greatest impact, what that looks like and where we should focus our efforts first? How can you partner with your own vendors and resource providers to test new solutions? Or perhaps I will push you even further…how can we as a community come together to provide global insights into many other questions. Our biennial Benchmarking Study represents the kind of opportunity we have at hand to explore ideas both locally and around the world in identifying new concepts that can and should push our thinking in the realm of patient experience overall.

If we are to continue our endeavor in not just shaping, but solidifying and expanding a true field of practice and a profession that can positively influence outcomes for years to come, what questions should we be asking? What should we include in our PX research agenda? I look forward to your thoughts and commit to pulling together these ideas so we can collectively engage and continue to push the patient experience movement forward together. We now just need the right questions to ask.

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

Reframing Patient & Family Experience

experienceBWAs the experience conversation grows and more voices enter the discussion, I have come to recognize a need to reframe how we think about experience overall. In much of what I have written and shared in my talks, I have stressed an important point, that experience at its broadest point is all a patient, long-term care resident and/or family member encounters while they are engaged in our healthcare system. Critical to this idea is that, as outlined in our stand at The Beryl Institute, experience also reaches across all segments of the continuum and the spaces in between.

I raise this again now for as recently as this week I have been asked about how experience fits with quality and safety efforts or compares to patient engagement. My concern and therefore my desire to align our conversation is that many in the experience discussion have become trapped by our own warnings – that we continue to address experience from the perspective of providers rather than what the actual experience is for those in our systems.

I start by reinforcing what patient experience is not, in order to build a framework and encourage a discussion of what experience truly must be. For a long while experience was simply aligned with service or service excellence or even more simply satisfaction. For many it still is. Service in healthcare is critical, as it is the domain through which we find ourselves engaging people with dignity and respect, as one human being to another. Yet service is also not the full extent of what the users in our healthcare systems experience. It is but one piece of a complex pie inclusive of quality, safety, service, cost, outcomes and influenced by caregiver engagement, in which we must work diligently to drive integrated actions.

This leads to the question is experience engagement? There has been incredible work around the processes and tools to drive patient and family engagement and in their very creation believe our answer is provided. If engaging patients and families in care encounters is of value, which it has proven to be, this too becomes a critical practice in positively impacting experience. Engagement tools, and in similar light the concepts of patient and family, or person centered care, all provide an incredibly important set of resources for ensuring the critical positioning and involvement of patients and families as partners in their care. These ideas too then are not experience in total, but rather are central to ensuring a positive experience overall.

I continue to raise this issue for one central reason. That in all we do to ensure the best in healthcare as I note, from quality, safety and service, to driving outcomes or addressing cost, to implementing processes of engagement or person-centeredness, these ideas are OUR language inside healthcare looking out. Yet when looking from the outside in, they are all but parts of one experience.

With this mindful integration I do not suggest we eliminate all distinct efforts to drive results in these various segments of experience. In fact in order to manage the dynamic nature of healthcare today, we need to focus our work on each of these critical efforts to ensure directional progress and continuous improvement. Rather, I do suggest we MUST NOT tackle each of these efforts in isolation, or under the false pretense that they are not part of the broader experience for patients and families.

So what is the opportunity we then have in reframing patient and family experience? I believe we must:

  1. Look beyond experience as just satisfaction or service to the reality of what our patients and families see every day. We do them great disservice by simplifying this idea in a way it becomes tangential or even “soft” to the hard work we do in healthcare every day.
  2. Align and coordinate our divided efforts, and in doing so, our collective language, to reinforce a commitment to the perspective of the end user in healthcare today. We can still segment our work efforts and improvement opportunities to tackle these often complex opportunities and problems, but we cannot and must not do so to the detriment of providing a coordinated and comprehensive experience.
  3. Work together to address experience from the broadest perspective across and at all touch points and the moments of truth we create clinically, interpersonally, virtually, etc. and include the voices of those we care for and serve to ensure an integrated and experience focused effort overall.

Yes we must focus on the basics – the blocking and tacking of what impacts experience everyday on the front lines of care, at points of transition and in the many seams we have created in between, but if we lose perspective on the broader opportunity, our smaller steps may not help us realize our greater goal. If we are committed to providing the best in experience for all in our healthcare systems – quality, safe, service-oriented, cost efficient, outcomes driven, inclusive, coordinated and compassionate – like I know most in healthcare are, then we still have great opportunities ahead. I challenge us to think about reframing our view of experience. In doing so I believe we will identify and achieve all we know is truly possible for all those touched by healthcare every day.

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

Taking a Stand for Patient Experience Excellence

The last month saw an incredible amount of activity for the patient experience movement, from Patient Experience Conference 2015 and its broad opportunity for learning and connection to last week’s Patient Experience Week, that had organizations around the world acknowledging and celebrating the work of so many and the voices of all in ensuring the best in patient experience. Underneath these efforts that are representative of the work taking place each and every day in healthcare, we at The Beryl Institute and through our global community believed it was time to move beyond just action to true commitment in our collective focus on experience excellence.

What does this look like? Beyond the incredible range of resources developed and shared through our global community of practice that can inform and guide each of our journeys, there was a realization that we had a much greater opportunity and I dare say responsibility in aligning our focus and intent on the true importance of patient experience in healthcare today. As a community we have focused every day to reinforce an important point – that patient experience encompasses all that a patient or family member encounters, be it quality, safety, service, cost or outcomes; it is impacted by the engagement of the very people providing and supporting the provision of care; it is driven by a recognition thatpeople, process and place are all fundamental considerations; and it is not a passing fad or simply a measure of satisfaction. Rather, it is a central construct that impacts healthcare organizations and their efforts around the world each and every day. Simply stated, patient experience matters!

We too have recognized that patient experience is more than just an idea; it is an emerging field of research and practice. So in conjunction with the incredibly powerful and energized community of practice that exists, we also framed a foundational body of knowledge, have pushed to expand the boundaries of research via Patient Experience Journal and solidified a professional designation and process for development with the new Certified Patient Experience Professional (CPXP) designation via Patient Experience Institute.

The last piece in all this – from philosophical and strategic alignment, to the physical framework of a vibrant, strong and lasting field of practice – was to identify and underline the critical actions that have emerged as central to achieving excellence in patient experience. We often are asked the question and see it in the conversation throughout the community, “what can we do to achieve the best in experience?” In our work and through the incredible examples of so many doing this critical work each day, we have come to identify what we believe are the guiding principles for patient experience excellence.

As we introduced these ideas last week – our stand for patient experience excellence – we reinforced an important point. These eight essential actions should serve as aspirational and affirmative statements about where we as individuals, organizations and collectively as the patient experience movement should focus our efforts. We offer these as aspirational – as ‘wills’, not ‘shoulds’ – for as the data show so many of us are just starting or are in the midst of our patient experience journey. In fact, if we believe experience is a continuous effort than the journey truly never ends. With that we warmly invite and strongly encourage healthcare organizations globally to consider and commit to theseguiding principles:

We believe organizations and systems committed to providing the best in experience WILL:

  • Identify and support accountable leadership with committed time and focused intent to shape and guide experience strategy
  • Establish and reinforce a strong, vibrant and positive organizational culture and all it comprises
  • Develop a formal definition for what experience is to their organization
  • Implement a defined process for continuous patient and family input and engagement
  • Engage all voices in driving comprehensive, systemic and lasting solutions
  • Look beyond clinical experience of care to all interactions and touch points
  • Focus on alignment across all segments of the continuum and the spaces in between
  • Encompass both a focus on healing and a commitment to well-being

As we look at the potential we have in our focus on excellence in patient experience, there is boundless possibility. More so, at its core we find an unquestionable opportunity to reinforce the great value of all who participate in the healthcare conversation and all who are touched by it. Commitments as strong as they may seem, or as aspirational as they may be, are only of impact if they are moved from words to action. That is my ultimate challenge to you as the patient experience community and as the healthcare community as a whole.

These are not just concepts, but rather they are commitments to action – for our organizations, for our people, for all those we care for and serve and for the kind of healthcare world we have the desire to, and I know we have the capability, to create. I invite you, encourage you and call on you to join us in taking a stand for all we can do for experience excellence. Only good things can come of these actions if we take them together.

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

Patient Experience Matters

As the final hours before Patient Experience Conference 2015 count down, I am reminded of the importance of the journey we have set out upon. When we work, as one community, encompassing a diversity of thought and experiences, on a cause so central to healthcare – the experience of all in our global system of care – only good things can happen. For so many committed to the best in experience for the patients, residents and families they serve – be they the almost 35,000 members and guests of The Beryl Institute Community, the readership of Patient Experience Journal from over 100 countries, the volunteer leaders and content contributors, writers, tweeters, caregivers and support staff around the globe – we often find ourselves in small pockets of people, likeminded in purpose and focus. Tackling this work in small bands spread far can at times be exhausting, even knowing you have the support of the thousands in our virtual community.

I, too, know that there is power in the ability to come together and recall the words shared by a participant in the closing conference discussion session we held at the end of our first patient experience conference now five years ago. (Yes, it was intimate enough we could all have one discussion.) That person stood, with the polished, but worn glean of a conference well spent, of learning gained and new connections made, and said “I now know I am not alone.” It was a profound and awakening statement that has been a fundamental root of our last five years in growing the Institute community. First, that you, as professionals or as patient or family members, are not alone on this journey and second, there is a place you can come to connect, find support, contribute, be vulnerable, breathe, smile and grow. But more so, there is a special moment when you can do that with one another together at Patient Experience Conference.

I have heard some call the event a family reunion and others call it the recharge they needed from a year of draining work. In all descriptions, I have heard something underlying it all – Patient Experience Conference, while a “conference” in title, is nothing like any other healthcare conference experience you can or will have. Others may have summits, conferences or symposiums with the requisite healthcare structures, protocols and learning. From that we do not differ, but what you do find are the people and the connections that last well beyond just three days a year.

Since our first Patient Experience Conference, I have opened reinforcing that important point – that in looking around the room, the power of our time together is in more than lessons shared, PowerPoints projected or even compelling stories told. It is in the gift of being together, of those around you, and all you and they have to offer. When we spend the next three days in Dallas, that will happen once again. Together, we will create a gathering not meant to highlight one organization or a specific product, but rather bring life to an event that is committed to the very idea that is at the heart of the importance I mention above. Simply stated, patient experience matters.

It matters because it touches the lives of so many leading to quality, safe, service-focused encounters conscious of cost, committed to outcomes, open to all voices and intent on nothing but the best for all we care for from healing to the fate of spending one’s last days in dignity. You see, we are all the patient experience. So I, too, look forward to the next few days ahead, but in highlighting their importance, return to a point so central to our work. We are not in this alone, and there is a community to support you every day of the year. I am proud of what we – our community of committed leaders around the world – have created, humbled by the cause we have taken on and inspired by all I know we have yet to do together.

Jason A. Wolf, PhD
President
The Beryl Institute

Understanding expectations matters to experience excellence

In a recent personal encounter shared by our Director, Member Experience, Michelle Garrison, she told a story of her own healthcare experience related to a surgical procedure and how it made her feel as a patient in the process. Her experience and insights reinforced a critical point central to the conversation on experience excellence – expectations matter.

I first addressed this issue in the Patient Experience Blog two years ago when I wrote:

“Expectations are powerful. They influence what we see, how we act, and the way we react. They stir emotions and create real feelings from joy to anger, surprise to sadness. The reality of expectations is that they present an intriguing paradox in how they can and do influence the situations in which we find ourselves. Expectations are an individual and even very personal experience, yet at the same time they can be set by organizations, businesses and other people outside of one’s self. This makes expectation potentially the most valuable and perhaps most precarious tool in the discussion of consumer experience and in healthcare, the patient experience.”

As Michelle shared her story, she reinforced an important point from her personal experience. She noted, “We are continually looking for the best methods to help prepare patients and family members by ensuring they know what they are likely to face when they visit with a doctor, arrive at the hospital, leave a healthcare encounter and beyond. By setting their expectations ahead of time, we help prepare them and give them the opportunity for the best patient experience. However, even with the most comprehensive of processes in place, there are going to be times when expectations are not met and the patient experience will fall short.”

This was a profound statement for me as I realized in Michelle’s words reflecting on her encounter that she felt the provider would have provided expectations. It also raised an important point, and I dare say an opportunity. That in providing the best in experience we must also be willing to ask the questions and take the steps necessary to understand the expectations of those we are caring for.

In talking about her experience Michelle said “I was not the best of patients. Though, I am pretty sure if you were to ask my doctor, the nurses, anesthesiologist and the others who took care of me, they would not have anything bad to say about my behavior or me.” In asking why she felt that way, she added,

“Here is where I fell short. I did not ask enough questions and the questions that I did ask were not the right ones. I was not as informed as I could have been about what was going to take place and how I would feel after the procedure, and so my expectations did not match the reality of what occurred. I was given instructions both before and after, on the procedure and what to do if there was a problem, but there was nothing about how to deal with the lingering after effects and how I might feel. I mistakenly thought all of the information I needed would be given to me without my having to ask for it, but it was not. Of course, I could have reached out to my doctor, but instead I did what I am sure a lot of patients do, I turned to the internet to see if what I was experiencing was normal.”

This statement is powerful and eye opening in its potential reflection of the way many other patients or family members may feel in the midst of the healthcare system and their own experiences. This is a significant realization we may often miss, that while patients want to engage, they are not sure how to participate or what to ask. Or they believe what they need to know will be provided so don’t think they even need to ask. In concluding her story, Michelle shared, “It is important to understand that patients and family members are not always going to ask all the questions they should or even the right ones. They may not know what questions to ask because they will assume, like I did, that the answers will be in that packet of paperwork they were given.”

I think we would all agree Michelle was not a “bad” patient, but perhaps quite the opposite, a patient that was trusting in the system to take care of her. Michelle’s procedure was successful and the system did its job, but the realization here is that there is an opportunity for much more. In many ways creating a process for clarifying and understanding the expectations of all participants in the care encounter be they patients or family members, doctors, specialists or support services and in doing so together could be one the most clear, simple and impactful ways to create the best in outcomes overall. Thanks Michelle for helping us to see and understand this point with greater clarity. You are the patient experience!

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

Patient experience excellence requires moving beyond resolutions

In talking with an old healthcare colleague this week about our plans for the year ahead, she shared one of her New Year’s resolutions was to focus more purposefully on improving the patient experience in her organization. While an admirable intention and perhaps also shared for my benefit as she knows I focus on this effort, it actually caused me to take pause.

The statement had me wonder where in the priority list experience now rests for both individual leaders and organizations. The Beryl Institute’s bi-annual patient experience benchmarking study as well as other research continues to show experience remains a top priority in healthcare. But, as my friend’s statement raised for me, I began to question if this priority was a resolution or response based on something one thought they should say or rather a statement of commitment to purpose and action. 

As we start 2015, we can say with confidence that great strides have been made as we continue to push the experience movement forward. I believe there is a greater agreement on the importance of experience overall as a driver of better outcomes clinically, organizationally and fiscally. There is also stronger recognition in the power of patient and family voice and perspective and an acknowledgement of the need to align efforts around an integrated approach to quality, safety and service improvement. Also of significance is an increase in formal definitions of experience being adopted by healthcare organizations (a question we will explore again in the 2015 benchmarking study) and the associated focus on personal interactions and culture as reinforced by The Beryl Institute’s shared definition of patient experience. Finally we have seen a rise in the role of senior experience leaders, i.e. Chief (Patient) Experience Officers, system level VPs of Experience, etc.

In thinking about what these indicators of progress represent, they represent much more than resolutions, which are simple statements of intent. These efforts and the impact they are having reflect clear commitments to action and they represent tangible investments in time, people and resources. That commitment is what I have come to not only believe, but also see as the differentiator in patient experience excellence and success.

I am often asked the question ‘what should we do to improve patient experience in our organization’; in fact my colleague posed just that question after sharing her resolution. I could tell that she, as many others do, were looking for the checklist of practices, in order of priority, she could put in place to make a difference. My challenge to this question was reinforced in the very conversation and came back to what the growth of this movement has shown us all.

The tactics are clear, reasoned and can have an impact, but it is a commitment to something bigger that leads to the best in outcomes. Commitment is about purpose and intent, focus and strategy. It is about building a plan that meets your organization and those your serve where they are and works to stretch them all as partners and contributors to where you want to go. Yes commitment is a choice, which I find to be at the heart of experience success, and then smart choices can help you to identify the “what’s” we all are searching for.

As we look to the year ahead, I can say without hesitation that the patient experience movement continues on. We look to help guide this at the Institute through our own commitments: the growth of our resources and a global community now almost 30,000 strong, the continued support of research through the expanded reach of Patient Experience Journal and the development of professionals through new learningand formal certification. And I believe the movement continues on more so because of what choices you and your peers will make.

In committing to experience improvement, be it in physician practices or ambulatory settings, acute care or pediatrics, long-term care or hospice, you have moved beyond the idea of a resolution. Your choices, the ones you help others make and the ones you offer and honor are where we will build the next levels of our collective efforts. I, your team from, and your peers in the Institute community remain committed to keeping this movement progressing and together it will lead to even great things for the year ahead. Happy New Year to you all.

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

Why We are ALL the Patient Experience!

“We are ALL the patient experience” is not just the theme that underlined Patient Experience Conference 2014; I would offer it is an idea that must be central to patient experience improvement and the patient experience movement overall. I am encouraged by the increasing acknowledgement that it takes all players in the healthcare marketplace, across the continuum, through the established hierarchies, and from patient & family, to caregiver, to community to ensure the best in experience.

This was exemplified during my On the Road visit just last week to Cape Regional Medical Center that will be published later this month. What I found was an institution that understood and acted fully on what community meant and, in doing so, engaged staff, physicians, leadership, patients and families in collective efforts to provide the best in experience.

I am often asked for the quick list of solutions to drive patient experience excellence or the checklist of actions that will lead straight to success. What my visit to Cape Regional reinforced, and what I have learned from so many other institutions, is that there is no one path to patient experience nirvana. Actually, I think we could all identify many core tactics that would help support improvement efforts. There are truly no secrets in this work (or at least there should not be). In fact I would challenge any organization that claims to have the secret recipe, be they provider or consultant, to examine what is truly distinct or unique about their efforts, and highlight, market and sell around that premise – not as an ultimate solution, but as a piece of an intricate puzzle. I believe there are practical ideas and innovative solutions we can learn from one another and, in fact, that is what I hope to reinforce.

A strong patient experience effort must be built on a patchwork of ideas, with a foundation of commitment across roles and responsibilities. While patient experience may be (and we encourage it should be) led by an individual or partnership of leaders, it can never be fully executed in isolation. In fact if we believe that at its core, experience is about the interactions that take place between two human beings around issues related to quality, safety, service and even improvement, then we must acknowledge the simple, yet powerful point that we are all the patient experience.

The implications for this understanding are significant and the imperative for supporting action is clear. Successful organizations driving patient experience improvement, and sustaining it, have worked hard to:

  • Develop and support leaders at all levels, in all roles, across all functions
  • Equip people with direct and easy access to the broadest amount of relevant and actionable information possible
  • Build solid partnerships with those they serve through active patient and community engagement
  • Build recognition and performance plans in direct alignment with experience objectives
  • Create a sense of shared ownership and reinforce accountability for ideas developed and actions taken

And the list could go on as you build an integrated effort.

You see, improving patient experience and the effort it requires must be owned by all and every individual most often impacts experience at the moment of a simple encounter. This means we must prepare these individuals to act. It is for this very reason that we introduced a simple, but comprehensive Institutional membership access to The Beryl Institute this year. This membership offers healthcare facilities of all sizes and purposes the broadest access for the most individuals in their organization. It provides information, education and accountability across the organization’s community. We have seen organizations with front line nurses to senior leaders and patient and family advisory council members to physicians engaged in accessing community resources and, in doing so, contributing strong ideas as well.

It is in our ability to engage the broadest range of voices through which we can find the best in experience outcomes. I encourage you to provide the opportunity for leadership to emerge, for new ideas to be fostered and for proven concepts to be shared. I know at the Institute we are committed to ensure you have the platform on which to build those efforts every day. Here is to all each individual contributes to the best in experience and for the rallying cry that moves us forward: We are ALL the Patient Experience!

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

Reigniting our Intention for Patient Experience Improvement

In just the last few days I had the privilege of spending time with the team at Cincinnati Children’s and then speaking with caregivers, staff, patients, family and community members as part of the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Central Local Health Integration Network Quality Symposium. While vastly different organizations and experiences that crossed an international border I was struck and even moved by the passion and commitment I see growing around the patient experience.

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This is no better exemplified then by the growth of our community at The Beryl Institute and the efforts that have been inspired by each of you. The dialogue on patient experience improvement is growing, not just due to surveys, or even at-risk dollars (though we would be mistaken not to acknowledge its influence). It is not just driven by shifts in policy or even an emerging consumer mindset that has brought the concept of personal choice to healthcare decision-making. We may best describe it instead, by the “perfect storm” of personal awareness, professional passion, and external influence all culminating in this moment. And this is your moment as an individual committed to patient experience improvement.

This culmination guides what we have been inspired to create through our community and in the coming weeks will make available to support this powerful intention. My hope as a servant for the needs of the over 20,000 members and guests of The Beryl Institute and the countless others committed to this movement is that we provide the framework, resources, learning and connections to foster continuous motion.

We start in just a few days with Patient Experience Conference 2014, a physical gathering to engage with one another in learning, sharing, challenging and inspiring efforts. It will be soon followed by Patient Experience Week, a new annual event, inspired by members of the Institute community, to celebrate healthcare staff impacting patient experience. Taking pause during this week provides a focused time for organizations to celebrate accomplishments, reenergize efforts and honor the people who impact patient experience everyday.

In the midst of these major events, are two dynamic resources designed to support the very intention I see burgeoning. The first, the release of the initial Patient Experience Body of Knowledge learning modules, brings this community effort guided by almost 500 voices to its next stage, in providing core learning for current and aspiring patient experience professionals. From this focus on practice we will also see a push for greater research with the launch of Patient Experience Journal (PXJ) and its Inaugural Issue bringing together the voices of academic and practical research from around the world to inform and even challenge our work.

In the weeks ahead, and in the weeks and months beyond, our task together must be to refresh, renew and reignite our intention through these and other efforts. The task at hand may be no simpler, yet never more complex. Your work as champions of patient experience is a relentless effort of doing what is right in every moment. Consider this a rallying cry in a month where powerful people and strong efforts will collide in great possibility. So what can you do about it? I offer:

  1. Acknowledge that whatever role you play, what every title you hold, whatever resources may be at your call, you are a leader for patient experience improvement.
  2. Recognize that complexity may be our greatest foe in dealing with what at its core is our commitment as human beings caring for human beings – keep it simple, that is where great power can be found.
  3. Commit to engaging others in your efforts – be it the voices of patients and families, the insights from community, the experiences of peers or colleagues. While at times it may feel lonely on this journey, know there are so many more carrying this passion with you.
  4. Focus relentlessly on where you can make a difference; the operative concept being there is a place that each and every one of you has a difference to make.
  5. Don’t let complacency be the enemy of your intention; yes there are now scores to earn, objectives to achieve, targets to shoot for, but don’t be afraid to do what you know is right in the end.

The team at Cincinnati Children’s reinforced what I have seen on many On the Road visits and the participants in Ontario exemplified it in their efforts. We all have a vested interest in improving patient experience – be it for ourselves, our loved-ones, our friends, or ourcommunities. This is a cause worth working towards and one in which I hope we will always remember the power of strong and true intention.

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