Considerations for Patient Experience Excellence: 2016

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

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

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

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

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

I conclude with one more consideration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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