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5 Ways to Energize Your Patient Experience Strategy

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, April 27, 2011

There is a lot of chatter these days about improving the patient hospital experience. Ask any C-suite hospital executive to list his or her priorities and some variation of patient experience (patient satisfaction, patient safety, quality care, etc.) will likely top the list.

Money is the root of some of this interest. The federal Affordable Care Act and the creation of Accountable Care Organizations have healthcare stakeholders looking at ways to measure improvement in the healthcare delivery system. It's easy to see why. The soon-to-be-implemented value-based purchasing program will pay hospitals for their actual performance on quality measures rather than just for the reporting of the measures. That means performance will be attached to federal dollars.

But here’s the rub: no one is quite sure what really makes a patient hospital experience a good one. A few years back hospitals started offering amenities such as Internet access, parenting classes, and concierge services all in the name of making patients happy. Lately the patient experience debate has centered on process-driven metrics such as reducing emergency department wait times or improving the time it takes to get a patient from registration to a bed, or from a bed to the front door.

While the ACA has tipped its hat in favor of measureable goals, Jason Wolf, executive director at the Bedford, Texas-based Beryl Institute, argues that while improving the patient experience “should take some process into account, it really needs to be broader and more strategic. Successful organizations see improving the patient experience not as an initiative but as something that becomes intrinsic to the organization.”

The Beryl Institute, which consults with hospitals about patient experience, recently released a survey about what hospitals are doing to improve the patient experience. Wolf noted that for all the talk about the importance of the patient experience, more than 40% of the respondents said a committee has the primary responsibility and accountability for the patient experience and that such committees meet on average about once a month.

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6 comments on "5 Ways to Energize Your Patient Experience Strategy"


R Daniel King (5/6/2011 at 5:32 PM)
The patient experience is a product of the employee experience which is the product of leadership. If leadership is not engaged, and most are NOT, then employees are professionally dysfunctional and the patient experience becomes a statistic in the quality chasm the Institute of Medicince identifies every 10 years.

Mary K Parker (5/3/2011 at 2:10 PM)
I think the 5 points could almost be boiled down to one word: Communicate. As far as point 4, cold hard cash is a motivator only to a certain point and it won't sustain improvement. "Drive," by Dan Pink will bear this out.

Jake Poore (5/2/2011 at 9:55 AM)
Terrific points, Jason. I also agree with Kristin's points, amenities and concierge are a nice value-add, but my patient focus groups very rarely discuss the lack of hotel like homeyness, rather they always reference the lack of consistency between care team members. Having an explicit culture where every team member knows how to express in words and actions what compassion, courtesy, and dignity looks like, sounds like and feels like to those in need...now that would be world class.