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

Reflecting on The Patient Experience Movement: The Power of Voices and Collaboration

As we stand at the end of each year, we tend to look back at all that led us to this moment and anticipate all that lies ahead. I stand here now with all of you that comprise our patient experience community, who live and breathe in your every action this patient experience movement, and can say without hesitation that together we have accomplished great things and together there are even more powerful moments to come.

Collaboration-v2

This year has exemplified our core values at The Beryl Institute – the importance of community and the integral role of collaboration. We have worked to reinforce the true power of engaging all voices in the patient experience conversation. This gathering of voices has seen our patient experience community grow from 11,000 to 20,000 members and guests this year alone, representing over 45 countries. This gathering of voices has led to a year in which the foundational ideas of this movement have been reinforced and solidified. In our commitment to expand access to the greatest breadth and depth of individuals across healthcare we recently expanded our membership framework to provide access to all associates in any healthcare facility. These Institutional memberships enable staff at all levels, in all roles, across the range of healthcare organizations to engage, to learn and to lead in their own environments.

In expanding the conversation on voice itself, this year has been shaped by the Voices of Patient Experience series in which we heard from the C-Suite, front-line practice, students across healthcare disciplines, physicians, patients and families and those measuring the impact of our patient experience efforts. This collection of voices served to complement the many others that contributed to learning and sharing of ideas via webinars and case studiesPatient Experience Conference presentations and On the Road visits. Hundreds of you added your thoughts to the conversation via these and other outlets. This open sense of sharing, of giving, of collaboration has allowed the patient experience movement to thrive.

The voices series also raised a significant awareness for the community; to be an organization truly committed to patient experience, we had to move beyond the talk about what we do “to” patients and families, and reinforce an unwavering commitment to do “with”. This partnership in care underlines the very intent of the Institute to provide a place to learn from one another, and it was clear that included the voices of patients and families themselves. This led us to establish the Global Patient & Family Advisory Council, comprised of leading patient and family thinkers, writers, speakers and activists. It also had us collaborate with IHI at the 2013 National Forum to support the “Patient is In” Booth in which patients and family members could share input and ideas with forum participants. These voices remind us of the boundless value of this partnership in patient experience improvement.

The expansion of voices also led to the 2nd State of Patient Experience Study, the largest conducted to date on patient experience efforts, and revealed some interesting trends in the both the focus, intent and awareness of patient experience efforts. Yet, while the movement continues to push on, less than 50% of U.S. hospitals have yet to formally define patient experience for themselves. We still have great opportunities to educate and learn from one another.

This awareness made it only natural that we expand our efforts overall on the professional development of patient experience champions, furthering the work on the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge with domain outlines and the anticipated release of the domain courses in 2014. As a community you reinforced your desire and the greater need to shape this work in ways that will allow each and every one of us to grow stronger. The year ahead brings even more exciting work on this front.

In a recent Hospital Impact blog I mentioned my great excitement about the growth of the patient experience family overall, from new sister organizations to research entities focusing on this area, to critical gatherings in numerous places in support of this important discussion. We will continue to support and reinforce the value of all these efforts and maintain that in collaboration we all win in this movement. We remain committed to serving as a hub and connector of the many voices focused on this effort and keep our arms open for the opportunities for further collaboration.

This very idea led to us to begin conversations with and engage in a formal collaboration with the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA) and its 40 years of incredible history and commitment to patient voice, rights and advocacy. A strong and storied organization whose roots can be found at the very start of the patient experience movement, SHCA felt they found a home for their future with The Beryl Institute, but I would say while the container is the Institute, the home is the community of peers, of leaders and teachers, of resource providers and caregivers, of patients and families who make up this growing professional home for so many. The integration with SHCA and the purposeful collaboration with a growing number of organizations committed to this cause help reinforce the power that collaboration itself brings to this conversation.

I would be remiss if I did not add a personal note to this reflection on the year, that as I stood on stage to close Patient Experience Conference 2013 and received the call that I needed to rush home for the delivery of my son, I shifted abruptly from champion and advocate for a movement to a family member surround by a healthcare system still admittedly learning itself. My eyes were opened, not only by the magic of the birth of a child, but of a family member watching your loved ones cared for, your new child handled, complications managed and tense moments relieved. We must not forget we are all patients and family members and need to continue our work as such.

The work you do may at times seem like small gestures, part of your standard process or even done automatically as a seasoned veteran, but to a patient or family member you are providing an incredible gesture of service, of quality, of safety – of experience. In every moment we have the choice to create the experience for our patients and their families. And every moment each of you as members of this community, of this movement, have that choice as well…to engage, to learn, to contribute, and to encourage the involvement of others.

You see this is your community, it is built on the power of your voices, it is driven by the collaboration we find with one another and it is from that place that we look to the new year knowing that the greatest opportunities still lie ahead. Thank you for your contributions, support and leadership. May you have a healthy and happy holiday and be ready with great excitement for all the New Year will bring.

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

A Patient Experience Lesson from the Latest U.S. Congressional Showdown

USCapitolWhile I don’t wade into the political spectrum often in these discussions, in light of the news of the day, I am hard pressed not to at least share a reflection on what is taking place in Washington, D.C., its impact on the U.S. Healthcare system, and the broader economic implications it is presumed to have. I do not intend to advocate for one position or another here, but rather share a core reflection on the lesson I see for patient experience professionals in the current state of affairs.

For those of us in healthcare (and in reality for all of those that are not), this week signifies a historic time with some of the first steps underway in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare. Regardless of the actions (or inactions) on Capitol Hill, and whether you are in support of or against it, the healthcare law will move forward for now. I do not intend to break down the law and examine its detailed impact on the patient experience here. Rather, I hope to share a simple but significant realization about the entire U.S. Healthcare system revealed in this debate.

Recent polls conducted separately by both Fox News and CNBC found that when asked, Americans often distinguish between the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare. Much of this distinction is driven from the very mouths of congressional and other political leaders. In fact in exploring people’s opinions on the programs under these two naming conventions there was a variance in the value, interest and support for each of these programs. The challenge (or perhaps surprise) in this discovery is that in fact these two programs are exactly the same thing – the ACA is Obamacare and vice versa.

The reality is in healthcare we have many words that raise this same challenge in our delivery system, driven by providers, supported by payors and serving patients and families. The example above, of divergent opinions on, in essence, the same idea, driven by language, expert opinion or pure rhetoric, is one of the best I have seen reinforcing with clear data the power of language and more importantly perception.

The concept of perception – the way you think about or understand someone or something – is a central part of the patient experience itself. Defining patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient (and family) perceptions across the continuum of care makes explicit that perception is both the result of experience and also the lens through which people make choices now and into the future around their care.

For the reported confusion created in the language around two names for the same healthcare law – ACA or Obamacare – there are limitless levels of confusion created in the language of our healthcare system itself, from diagnosis to medications, acronyms to systemic issues. In the simplest of terms we all too often and in many cases unintentionally create confusions for the healthcare community, our patients and their families in the terminology and language we choose to use. I recently sat on a panel at DePaul University on the future of healthcare in the U.S. and this very issue emerged – that in creating true accessibility we have to not only have the proper processes and checklists in place, but also the right, and perhaps more importantly, the clearest language possible.

I am not suggesting the healthcare system is facing the same levels of dysfunction as the U.S. Congress, but I do believe there is a great opportunity for clarity in making the healthcare experience easier and better for all receiving care. Finding language that works for patients and families, as well as for those working in the system, will only serve to better engage and inform patients and families and support the invaluable nature of their role as partners in the healthcare process.

This could perhaps be one of the first and most important steps in driving patient experience success. There is power in language, in its application and perception…the US congress taught us that again this week in a way I don’t think we cared to learn. But in this chaos I see a silver lining, an important lesson for all of us either entrusted with and/or committed to the best in patient experience. Manage perceptions with clarity and honesty in each and every healthcare encounter. It may not change the system overnight, but it will have a positive and powerful ripple effect that will be very hard to diminish.

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

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

 

Patients are Partners in Experience, Not Just Recipients of One

JWBlog6.13In my most recent Hospital Impact blog I noted that “how” we choose to do things in healthcare will and should trump the “what”. This is supported by my travels through numerous healthcare organizations where it is becoming evident that the core practices organizations are using to drive patient experience success are more and more consistent. While some might see this as limiting, I see it as encouraging.

Why is that? It means we are listening to one another, learning from each other and showing an incredible willingness to “steal ideas shamelessly” as a well respected CEO once shared with me in describing a component of their organizational success. That means the ‘what’ we do is not very different location to location. The distinguishing characteristic in experience is not the things you do, but the way in which your deliver. This is at the core of the very definition of patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture”.

This ability to listen and learn from one another is a central value of all we do at The Beryl Institute. As a global community of practice we can (and must) learn from all edges of the community – those Institutions rated the “best” or seen as the “biggest” do not represent the only expertise. Rather it is in trying and executing of ideas in organizations of all shapes, sizes and focus through which excellence is supported and shared. It is based on this premise that the idea of a broad and inclusive range of voices has been so central to our work.

In returning to the conversation of “how”, I reflect on the recent conversations I had with 18 incredible patient and family advocates committed to the work of improving quality, safety and service for patients and families around the world in preparing the most recent paper from The Beryl Institute – Voices of Patients and Families: Partners in the Patient Experience. The stories these individual’s shared of compassion personified and at times the uglier side of care help us realize that there is power in how we choose to manage the interactions we have in healthcare every day. That it is truly more than the tactics, and rather the execution that matters.

The point I make here is all the tactics in the world amount to very little if all they are is something we do TO people in our care. The old language of provider and recipient may well still be used in healthcare, but its use is outdated and indicative of a system in need of change. Patients – yes, you and I, our children and parents, family and friends – are active parts of the healthcare equation, not passive recipients of it. We need to ensure we start acting this way. This perspective is exemplified through the work of such great organizations as the Society for Participatory Medicine.

While there are countless lessons shared by the individuals interviewed in the Voices paper, we inherently know many of them ourselves. Our contributors helped frame three central ideas in ensuring partnership in the care environment:

1. Acknowledge patients are not subjects in the healthcare process or “something” you should talk about or plan for in third person.

2. Recognize patients are not necessarily wired to actively engage in the healthcare process, due both to the complexity of healthcare and the nature of the system itself (that potentially diminishes the role of the patient in an unspoken hierarchy of expertise). You must ask, encourage, and act on the patient’s voice.

3. Consider coordinating efforts to identify and incorporate patient perceptions into the overall planning of care.

Personally, as I continue the journey of new fatherhood, I saw this play out in the very interactions we have had with our pediatrician. At our stage as new parents, we could be scolded, challenged or even talked down to about how we handle situations. Instead our doc engages us based on our questions, our hopes and fears. I know she is getting all the needed clinical work done, but she is including us as patients and family, as partners in the process. This is an active decision on her part, it is one that engages us in the care of our son and ensures a positive experience with every visit. “How” is a choice we can all make in healthcare and is one I believe will make all the difference.

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

Why Community Matters in Improving Patient Experience

CommunityBlogThey say when someone mentions a Red Beetle – the automobile version from Volkswagenor “bug” – you go from not seeing them at all to seeing them everywhere you look. In a similar fashion my recent conversations on the patient experience have raised this sense of “everywhere” awareness to the idea of community. From as recently as our March 5 webinar on patient engagement to the final interviews I just conducted for our pending paper on the Voices of Patients & Families on Patient Experience, there is a recognition that while patient experience is built on the foundation of countless personal interactions, when pulled together it is a true community issue and, I would suggest, opportunity.

The idea of community aligns strongly with the definition of patient experience that asserts patient experience crosses the entire continuum of care. I need to reinforce from the perspective we hold at the Institute this is not just the continuum within the four walls of the clinical experience, but from the very first encounters someone has with your organization to the stories they share well after their departure or discharge. Where are these stories told and where do they live beyond the boundaries of what you can control? In your communities, in the voices of people that have either had encounters with your organization or who have heard the stories, true or embellished, about what happened within your walls.

This means to provide a true experience, you must think well beyond the physical nature of your facilities or practices to recognize the experience resides in the network of people that surround and are connected to your organization, both near and far. This is at its heart, the essence of experience. As defined, experience is all that is perceived, understood and remembered. Those perceptions and memories and the stories through which they are shared are not collected at your doors, but rather they flourish in the sunlight and in the air of the streets, towns, and cities around you. The experience you provide is a community story and one you must be willing to acknowledge and address.

But I want to suggest another angle on community as well that is as equally important in all I have seen. That accomplishing the greatest in experience is a true community effort. It is not just something that can happen at admissions or discharge, or in your top performing units or departments. It must happen across the organization or system. More so I strongly believe the essence of patient experience thrives in much bigger ideas of community, which is why we have worked so hard in creating a true community of practice in The Beryl Institute itself.

I continue to be amazed by the generosity of spirit and sharing that has been afforded by the safe framework of our community. The realization that in healthcare if we are to be about the patient experience, holding our cards close to our chest or believing our “secret” process is our competitive advantage, is counter to what we are all trying to achieve. As much as I admire systems and organizations big and small for what they accomplish, I can tell you from my travels and encounters around the world, there is no one secret to success. What I have seen as the greatest resource comes back to the idea of that red beetle – community. It is in our willingness to share ideas and practice, to be open to exposing where we may have been challenged and celebrate and disseminate that which drove success, through which we can all impact patient experience.

This is not just a lesson for those in the delivery of care, but for those that support it; the resource providers and vendors, from survey companies to technology tools. It is their willingness to collaborate and share in community through which even greater things can happen. While their distinctions may be in variations of a theme in process and clearly more on level of service and the personalities involved, the reality is that they too play a part in this critical community conversation. From leadership to the frontline, from the future to patients and families themselves, it is the spirit of community and through the action of community that we can ensure the greatest in patient experience for all the patients, families and yes the very communities we serve.

As we approach Patient Experience Conference 2013, and we bring our virtual global community together physically for a few days this April, we hope that we are all reminded that it is through our connections that we have the opportunity for greatest impact. It is in our collective efforts and shared learning that we have the clearest path to success. My hope, and my vigorous invitation, is to join us, join this community and our efforts at The Beryl Institute as member or guest; as caregiver, physician, administrator, resource provider, patient or family member and to be in conversation on what we can accomplish as a community, together. The greatest of opportunities will emerge when we find our collective voice and there is so much yet to learn from one another.

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

The Importance of Voice in Improving Patient Experience

As The Beryl Institute has grown from a small group of committed individuals to a true global community, I have learned something very important. There is tremendous power in giving voice to ideas. Voice is not just the spoken word, but also the expression of opinion and thought, of creativity and passion, through multiple avenues. It is this essence of giving voice that rests at the core of excellence in patient experience itself.

My hope is that the Institute has reinforced that very fact. More than just a membership association or a research organization, the Institute’s strength in supporting those working to improve the patient experience has been in giving voice to the over 15,000 members and guests that engage in our community of practice. It was members and guests that provided input on the largest patient experience benchmarking study to date, it was members and guests who over 400 strong have contributed to creating the Patient Experience Body of Knowledge, it was members and guests who came together to author the definition of patient experience.

Why is this important? Because we have been built by and for our members in the way I have seen the most successful organizations address the patient experience itself. Those organizations have created the means to engage the range of voices they encompass. Those successful facilities and practices, systems and centers have made a commitment to intentionally listen and actively engage the voices of their community. They did this by:

  • Creating the opportunity for the voice of patients and families to be heard, not just in formal advisory roles, but also in common interactions. Those organizations that have incorporated patients and families as critical partners in the care experience excel at ensuring the best in service, quality and safety.
  • Providing the means for the voice of staff to be heard, not just through engagement surveys, but also as active contributors to an environment of continuous improvement. The ability to speak-up, offer ideas and even challenge the status quo without fear of repercussion has led to great improvements and important changes in the delivery of care.
  • Offering the chance for the voice of the community to be heard, more than just asking for contributions to foundations or causes. The engagement of community through strong presence and focused outreach shapes the nature of a healthcare organization, be it a rural community health center or a major urban hospital. In healthcare we hold a unique place in the communities we serve and play a role no other service provider can.

The importance of voice plays a central role in improving patient experience in healthcare settings around the world. In fact, in our most recent paper, Voices from the C-Suite: Perspectives on the Patient Experience, the executives we interviewed consistently talked about the importance of engaging the voice of patients, family and staff.

In no small part then is the importance of continuing to ensure the power of voice is included in all we do at the Institute. We have opened the year with a series of papers, including the Voices from the C-Suite mentioned above, that provide the opportunity for voices to be shared. This will be followed by Voices in Practice and ultimately Voices of Patients and Family, as we look to reinforce this simple, but significant tool and the lessons it offers in impacting patient experience.

Perhaps more importantly, we commit to ensuring the voice of the patient experience is heard. It is in our collective expression and sharing in which each individual and the organization they represent can learn and grow. It is ultimately in expressing our voice that we give the greatest gift to one another, it is in inviting that voice that we show the greatest of respect.

Improving the patient experience is not just an act, it is critical dialogue; one that we must foster and encourage. Its impact is greatest when all voices are heard. Our commitment is to provide the space for that to continue. My question now is how will you use your voice to impact the patient experience and how will you engage the voices of others? This is one conversation we must never let end.

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

Patient Experience: A Global Opportunity and a Local Solution

Last week we held the second call of the new Global Patient Experience Network supported by The Beryl Institute. The call included Institute members from eight countries and spread across 18 time zones. Despite our differences in location, time of day, native language or accent, when the conversation started, we discovered that the concepts at the core of improving patient experience are fundamentally the same. Providing the best in experience for patients, families and the communities (and countries) we serve is an unwavering focus for people across healthcare systems and functions around the world.

As I listened to the conversation and we dug deeper in identifying what posed the greatest challenges and offered significant opportunities for improving patient experience, I was struck by the recognition (and even relief) that participants showed in how similar their issues were. One participant offered, “It’s comforting to know we are all contending with the same challenges and questions moving forward,” with a second individual noting, “It is amazing that at the end of the day we are all working towards the same end and facing the same issues.” This realization drew agreement and raised the excitement of the group in understanding that even with great distances between us, there are great similarities and therefore possibilities.

The group identified the same top issues central to patient experience efforts that I have seen in my travels. They included:

  • The importance of organization culture and our ability to manage change in today’s healthcare environment
  • The understanding and effective implementation of patient (and team) interaction processes from patient, physician and staff engagement and involvement to service recovery, post care follow-up and building consumer loyalty
  • The implications of measuring our patient experience efforts to gauge perception and understand the impact of each effort
  • The value of the structure of patient experience practice itself, ensuring a clear focus, supportive leadership, aligned roles and right structures to deliver on the best experience possible

While these are not the extent of the issues faced in addressing patient experience, it was evident that among peers separated by great distance, they still had closely knit similarities. This was especially significant for our team at the Institute as we have always approached our work from the belief that while systems may operate differently and policies might be distinct, the very fundamentals that drive a positive patient experience – the power of interactions, the importance of culture, the reality that perceptions matter and the realization that experience covers the continuum of care – as framed by the definition of patient experience, continues to hold true.

With this great commonality and the excitement generated in the discussion, it was also evident that our members recognized that patient experience is a local, dare I say personal effort. Each and every individual that plays a role along the care continuum has some level of responsibility. It is based on the sum of all interactions, as we suggest, that a patient and their family members gauge their own experience. Therefore in building a patient experience effort, it requires an understanding of your own organization, the people that comprise it, and the community (and demographics) that you serve. Patient experience success is not driven by a one model fits all solution, it is and forever should be something that meets the need of your organization and your patients whether in San Diego or Sydney, New York or New Delhi. Ultimately, patient experience is a global issue, but it is and will continue to be up to each of us locally to bring these grand ideas, the critical practices, and the day-to-day needs to life in every encounter. There is a great opportunity we have been given to move beyond policy to true cause, beyond process to effective practice and beyond “have tos” to “always dos”, that will impact the lives of patients and families globally. I have always suggested it is a choice…I maintain that and hope it is part of all our resolutions for positive and healthy New Year!

In reflecting on the launch of the Global Network and other Institute efforts in 2012, it is clear that this has been an amazing year for our growing global community, with now over 11,000 members and guests in 28 countries focused on improving the patient experience. We have all committed to something noble and important, the best possible experience and the health and well being for our fellow man. And we have been given a great opportunity, to turn a global need into something each and every one of us can impact directly. Happy Holidays to you all and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow together in the year ahead.

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

All Voices Matter in Improving Patient Experience – A Reflection on Election Day

In some of my most recent blogs and in current publications from The Beryl Institute we have expanded the dialogue on the importance and power of voice in driving towards a positive patient experience. It is only fitting to take pause of this, as today – November 6, 2012 – in the United States represents one of the most powerful examples of the expression of voice to be found. In electing a President, citizens of the U.S. of all backgrounds and beliefs have the opportunity to be heard. The intention is that every voice regardless of how young or old, soft or loud, rich or poor has value in a broader dialogue about the greater good and direction of the country.

As I travel to healthcare organizations and engage with patients and families, caregivers and leaders, one thing stands out. It is the great alignment these individuals have in desiring and working to ensure the best care outcomes and overall experience possible. The recognition in this expanding dialogue on experience is not one of cynicism or even submission to simple performance on surveys, but one driven on the same passion and commitment to the wellbeing of our fellow human beings as those that vote to support the best in what they believe.

The common denominator in these ideas is the most critical component of all we do in healthcare, in our world of human beings caring for human beings. The power is that of voice and the voice of all, be it spoken, written, sung or signed. Healthcare organizations around the world bring people together at the most critical times of our lives – from the joys of birth, to the tears of a last breath – and this is not something any of us do alone. It takes the hearts, minds and yes, voices of many to make it work. It is the voices of patients and families in expressing their needs, but also sharing their fears and pains. It is the voices of caregivers who contribute to the best processes of care and support for one another. It is the voices of physicians who bring great insight and education along with the powerful ability to heal. It is the voices of staff that in basements, back rooms, and labs sew together the web through which the paths of care are supported. It is the voices of leaders who set visions and inspire and hold the space for all voices to truly make a difference in how we care for one another.

I had someone suggest to me once that if we allow room for all these voices, we give in to chaos at the cost of processes of care; that the input from all corners of a healthcare experience, be it acute or pediatric, ambulatory or practice-based, cause a murkiness that only leads to confusion. My response was simple, and my experiences have proven it to be true more and more each day. The chaos only exists if we fail to listen. When we get beneath what some may perceive to be noise, we realize there is a great commitment to the idea that every one is working towards the health and well being of those in care. By bringing together a symphony of voices we not only engage people, but we also expand the potential of what we can accomplish.

There is no magic formula or process for the gathering of voices. The methods and processes are rather clear, be they surveys, focus groups, advisory councils or committees for patients, staff, physicians and leadership. More important is the fact that we choose to acknowledge that all of these individuals have a voice to share and it may be in the most unsuspecting moment that the most impactful idea emerges. Perhaps in the end it is simple, that improving the patient experience is nothing more than a critical dialogue that must be fostered, nurtured and supported in ensuring that we listen and understand that each and every voice matters.

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