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

Reflections on Patient Experience Week

Last week we celebrated the first annual Patient Experience Week, providing a focused time for organizations to recognize accomplishments, reenergize efforts and honor the people who impact patient experience everyday. From nurses and physicians, to support staff and executive professionals, to patients, families and communities served, the Institute brought together healthcare organizations across the globe.

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Proclaiming a new week to observe is a little scary, especially in healthcare where we were warned that many organizations suffer from ‘Week Fatigue,’ but we were delighted by the excitement, participation and support from the community.

We believe that by being a part of Patient Experience Week, healthcare organizations showed employees they appreciate their hard work and encourage their continued efforts on behalf of patients. This week was meant to enhance patient and staff relations, increase hospital morale and improve overall communication, and that’s exactly what we watched it do.

From the social media buzz to our constant phone calls and emails from excited participants, we had the privilege of watching PX Week move from a mere idea to a true success exemplifying the strength of the global patient experience movement. And for a small, mission-driven organization like the Institute, the power in those five days was substantial. We were excited by every idea, photo, video and email that came in. As we work daily to be a community of practice for professionals passionate about improving patient experience, we believe last week exemplified our heart, soul and mission.

Dozens of #IMPX photos were sent in from individuals and teams, representing medical practices, hospitals and vendors (click on theimage above to zoom in and see some of the faces in the #IMPX mural). Several healthcare facilities added their videos to the #IMPX video library, organizations issued press releases to educate their communities about their patient experience efforts, and flyers, thank you cards, screen savers and even placemats reinforced the importance of the patient experience movement to those delivering care each day.

Hundreds of organizations participated in PX Week webinars where industry leaders discussed the current and future states of patient experience.  In addition to sharing ideas from the community and offering expert perspectives, we were excited to make several new announcements throughout the week:

  • PX Body of Knowledge – After two years of development, the first five courses in the PX Body of Knowledge were released, representing the community-developed foundation for effective patient experience leaders. Over 400 individuals from 10 countries contributed to this work.
  • PX Journal – The inaugural issue of Patient Experience Journal (PXJ) was published, an international, multidisciplinary, open-access, peer-reviewed journal focused on understanding and improving patient experience.
  • PX Learning Bites – We released the first in a series of patient experience learning bites – videos featuring industry leader’s insight about patient experience improvement in 2-3 minute segments.

All of these things represent the power of the patient experience movement – the advancement possible by the sharing of ideas, knowledge and practices and the community of professionals willing to contribute.

With this reflection on PX Week, we recognize and want to reinforce that the work to impact and improve patient experience is not something we just do in one moment, one week or one initiative.  The members of the Institute community and those in healthcare around the world committed to this effort are working tirelessly each and every day to ensure the best in patient experience. We acknowledge, encourage and remain steadfast in our support of these efforts.

As we anticipate the next Patient Experience Week, April 27 –May 1, 2015. We encourage you to mark your calendars and start planning your festivities now, but more importantly, we hope you will join us on the continued journey to create the best possible experiences for patients, their families and caregivers.

Stacy Palmer
VP, Strategy and Member Experience
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

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.

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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

The Patient Experience Must Be Owned By All: Welcoming the Society of Healthcare Consumer Advocacy

In The Beryl Institute’s recent research report – The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals 2013 – I noted in conclusion that the state of patient experience is growing stronger every day because of the many voices committed to this work. I too reinforced my belief that a patient experience movement is afoot, one that requires continuous and focused efforts and one that should be grounded in and built upon collaboration and alignment versus competition or the desire to stake a claim.

This idea rests at the very core of the global community of practice we have built at The Beryl Institute. We do not claim to own the patient experience, but rather to be a place where people can gather together to share what is best in what they are working to accomplish. Our philosophy has been and will remain that through collaboration not just great, but greater things can happen.

It is in this very spirit of collaboration that I am excited to share the bridging of two great organizations to expand the alignment and dialogue on patient experience improvement. We have been in discussion with and will soon be welcoming the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA) into The Beryl Institute community. After an incredible 40 year history and supportive home with the American Hospital Association (AHA), our three organizations – The Beryl Institute, SCHA and AHA – saw great potential in supporting the next 40 years and beyond for SHCA within the Institute (You can read a letter from all of SHCA’s Past Board Presidents here). As of January 1, 2014, our communities will align to continue to expand the patient experience conversation and in doing so model the power of coming together in this critical dialogue.

More details will soon be available around this exciting next step in the history of focus on patient advocacy and more broadly patient experience improvement, but suffice it to say, the commitment to engaging all voices and growing those engaged in this important work is top of mind for us all. I am excited and proud to welcome the SHCA community to The Beryl Institute family as their new professional home and in doing so reiterate the very critical message I share here. That it is in coming together, not attempts at market distinction, in which the greatest outcomes are possible.

I have watched in recent years as patient experience has moved from an emerging term to an active conversation at the center of policy and now financial focus. I have also seen a great game of ownership being played out. Much like one might have experienced during the gold rush, claiming their small bit of mountain stream to pan for hours, days or more in search of that one bright speck, many organizations – some well established, and some quite new – have all worked on positioning for their piece of the pie.

While I am a true believer in free enterprise and recognize the great potential for market savvy in this new world of healthcare, I also believe we have something bigger we are attempting to do in working towards patient experience excellence. It is in the bringing together of disparate thoughts or competing ideas, be they those of resource providers of similar services or healthcare organizations occupying the same market, in which the greatest outcomes can be realized. You see no one organization owns the patient experience, yet we in healthcare must all take ownership of it.

For this reason we have worked to bring the many voices together, for as I asserted above, this is where the strength of our work and its impact rests. This idea has been realized in the Institute’s Regional Roundtables where market “competitors” join together in sharing thoughts and crafting shared plans focused on improvement. It has been realized at Patient Experience Conference where numerous resource providers join in and engage in support of a true, independent community dialogue. It is seen in the willingness of some of the largest players in experience measurement to come together to share ideas between the covers of our soon to be released paper on the Voices of Measurement.

If we are to make the greatest differences in the lives of our patients, families, peers and community we must be open to the idea that above all else through collaboration and coordinated effort profound possibility exists for improvement and sustained impact. And while by my very words, I cannot claim The Beryl Institute is the only place this can or will be done, I do hope and in fact commit that we will continue to stand for the bringing together of all ideas, of every voice and of each hope in each and everything we do. As a community of practice it is our calling, at The Beryl Institute it is our cause and we are so very excited to see (and hopefully be a catalyst in) the patient experience family continuing to grow.

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