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

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

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

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

The Power of Expectations: A Thought for the New Year

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.

The example of how personal expectations can modify the perception of reality has long been part of the healthcare world. As Chris Berdik notes in his new book, Mind over Mind, the power of expectations lies at the center of the placebo effect. Berdik makes a compelling case that what we expect from the world changes how we experience it. He notes that research into placebos is expanding to examine everything that affects a patient’s expectations for treatment, including how caregivers talk and act and even the impact of the wealth of online information now available – and how those expectations can help or hinder healing. I believe the same is true as we look at the overall healthcare experience. Patients and families come with personal expectations and more often with ones that healthcare organizations worked to create. It is these very expectations that impact how individuals experience an organization and ultimately rate its performance overall.

I can share a non-healthcare example of this from just this past week. My wife and I had the chance to take a few days away for the holidays at a small inn near our home. We had heard great things about the service and quality of the experience and were excited by some of the extra amenities they offered. When we arrived we discovered our room was the only one missing the special amenities they touted in their promotions, and while the service was impeccable, this missed expectation had already impacted our experience. The hotel did all they could to accommodate and provide service recovery for our experience. To an extent they even exceeded what we would have anticipated in response, but it was the missed expectation that still lingered for us as guests.

Now imagine in the healthcare setting where our patients and families come with their own set of anticipations and clear expectations. Most do not choose to visit, but rather are dealing with illness or other issues that may be cause for great concern and even fear. They come with expectations of how they will be treated, but even more significantly they come to your doors with the expectations your organization has set through the stories shared and the messages disseminated via advertising or other means.

I saw an example of this at a recent hospital I visited. They were so proud of their new facilities, including new amenities, private rooms, etc. The advertisements and billboards they produced promoted the newness of the hospital. Yet, they still also had an older wing, where the rooms were dated, semi-private and lacked the sparkle and shine of the newer rooms. While the patient experience of the facility was not designed to be about the physical nature of the buildings, but rather the encounter people have with staff, they set the expectations publically that the facility itself was at the heart of their overall experience. In essence, they set expectations they could not always fulfill…and it set up the potential for disappointment before they even had the chance to make an impact.

The lesson here is simple, yet significant and one I think is critical to looking at the year ahead. For as much as we can control our efforts in healthcare, we must work to set the best and most realistic expectations we can for our patients and families. This is not what I have heard some describe as lowering expectations to outperform, but rather it is about setting the right expectations for what you want to deliver in your own organization and ensuring the means – both in resources and process – to deliver on it.

In maintaining a focus on providing a positive patient experience, consider starting the year by identifying the expectations you hope to deliver, ensuring your leadership and staff are aware of these touted expectations and establish a process to check your performance to these expectations at every point in the care experience. While you cannot dictate every expectation people bring with them to your doors, healthcare organizations can shape their own story in a way that ensures expectations are realized and the patient experience is one that will always be remembered. Wishing you fulfilled and exceeded expectations for the year ahead!

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