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Patient Experience Journey Lacks Defined Direction

Michael Zeis, for HealthLeaders Media, August 22, 2012

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

We're on a journey here," says Robert Permut, MD, chief medical officer for Provena Health, a health system that operates six hospitals, 16 long-term care/residential facilities, and other health facilities in Illinois and Indiana. "It's constant gardening," says Douglas Luckett, chief operating officer for CaroMont Health, a health system based in Gastonia, N.C. Providing positive patient experiences involves doing a lot of little things right.

All told, 84% place patient experience among their top three priorities in the 2012 HealthLeaders Media Patient Experience Survey. "Eighty-four percent is a massive number," says Jeffrey Thompson, MD, CEO of Gundersen Lutheran, a not-for-profit healthcare system serving patients in 19 counties in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. "Most will say you can only have several top priorities. The topic is really out there."

Adequate investments?
With this new survey data, we see that having a high position on the priority list does not necessarily qualify patient experience as a budget-worthy activity, though. More than half (58%) say they have not made specific patient experience investments, or cannot specify what the investment was. Thompson, an advisor for the Intelligence Report, says, "People are saying it is a high priority, yet so many have no investment." At Gundersen Lutheran, patient experience has its own line item. "Ten years ago it was in the same pool as quality," says Thompson, "but we split it out to get people to focus on it." That patient experience line item represents about 3% to 4% of the operating budget.

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