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Fostering a Culture of Patient Experience Excellence

News  |  By Jonathan Bees  
   August 23, 2017

Appointing chief experience officers and the use of process improvement methodologies enhance patient experience performance at healthcare organizations.


Building a culture of patient experience excellence within a healthcare organization can be especially challenging. Respondents in the 2017 HealthLeaders Media survey, Enhancing Patient Experience Through Process Improvement Methodologies, for example, cite that difficulty changing organizational culture (31%) is the biggest stumbling block to creating an effective patient experience program at their organizations.

Part of the reason that transforming organizational culture within healthcare organizations is so difficult is their size and complexity: They are typically large institutions with a diverse range of professional and nonprofessional staff, representing a long list of departments and functions.

Further, patient care is increasingly taking place outside the four walls of hospitals and includes the full range of the continuum—primary care offices, ambulatory and outpatient locations, convenient care clinics, skilled nursing facilities, and home health providers—often placing it outside the reach of direct management control.

In response to the complexity of this undertaking, many providers have added a dedicated chief experience officer to their leadership team to help manage the organizational culture process.

According to the survey, 45% of respondents say that their organization has a chief experience officer or an individual with similar responsibilities. But while hiring such an executive is an important step in fostering a culture that embraces patient experience excellence, more is needed given the many challenges.

Along with establishing leadership accountability through the appointment of a chief experience officer, the use of process improvement methodologies to enhance patient experience performance has also proven to be an effective strategy.

For example, 64% of respondents say that their organizations use process improvement methodologies such as Lean or Six Sigma to improve patient experience, indicating that a greater share of respondents are using process improvement than using a chief experience officer.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the use of process improvement methodologies is correlated with organizational size, which makes sense given the difficulty of managing patient experience across a large enterprise and the corresponding need for a more disciplined approach.

Note that a greater share of respondents from health systems (77%) and hospitals (74%) than physician organizations (26%) say that they use process improvement methodologies to improve patient experience. And based on net patient revenue, a greater share of large organizations (82%) than medium (76%) and small organizations (50%) say that they use this.

Jonathan Bees is a research analyst for HealthLeaders.

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