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Patient Priorities

Edward Prewitt, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2013
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This article appears in the July/August issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

The Net Promoter Score was invented in 2003 by a Bain & Co. consultant to measure "willingness to recommend," which was believed to be a better indicator of customer loyalty than traditional customer satisfaction scores. Word-of-mouth praise and criticism of hospitals and physicians matter more and more, so NPS makes sense for healthcare organizations. And, indeed, some large health systems, such as Ardent Health Services and Ascension Health, are now employing NPS, as detailed in this issue's cover story (starting on p. 10).

But healthcare has a greater mission than simply selling more widgets. Beyond patient satisfaction, the patient experience is crucially important. Were patients listened to? Were they treated well, in both senses of the phrase? Were they healed? Listening to patients' voices—even reading their verbatim feedback out loud, as Ardent nurses do in staff meetings—can drive home shortcomings powerfully.

The differences between patient satisfaction and experience are fuzzy but important. Healthcare leaders responding to our new Intelligence Report on patient experience (excerpted on pp. 29–31) say that HCAHPS scores are the top patient experience metric they follow, by a wide margin. I suspect that's because HCAHPS has federal money attached to it. But some leaders, at least, recognize a distinction. Patient experience goes beyond patient satisfaction, says Mary Anna Sullivan, MD, chief quality and safety officer for Lahey Health. It "is about our patients knowing that we care for them. It's not a business transaction, but a long-term relationship."

Healthcare leaders understand the importance of putting patients first; they rated "patient experience and satisfaction" as their organizations' top priority in our 2013 Industry Survey. The responsibility for improving patient experience falls most often to a multidisciplinary team (21% of respondents to our latest Intelligence Report), but in just 15% of cases, the CEO takes charge. James Merlino, MD, FACS, FASCRS, chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic, told HealthLeaders Research Analyst Michael Zeis, "If the president or CEO isn't talking about this topic, then it will not get traction."

Our monthly Intelligence Reports draw from the HealthLeaders Media Council, 6,200-plus healthcare leaders from across the country. A second Intelligence Report excerpted in this issue (pp. 26–28) delves into clinical quality and patient safety. This is the realm of hard data on quality metrics and decision-support software to ensure good processes. But consider: For patients, there is no distinction between high quality, safety, satisfaction, and the experience they hope for.


This article appears in the July/August issue of HealthLeaders magazine.


Edward Prewitt is the Editorial Director of HealthLeaders Media.
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