Fo­cus on pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence drives changes in the C-suite

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT - By Brian John­ston In­ter­ested in sub­mit­ting a Guest Ex­pert op-ed? View guide­lines at mod­ern­health­care.com/op-ed. Send drafts to As­sis­tant Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor David May at dmay@mod­ern­health­care.com.

While the jury is still out on the longterm ef­fec­tive­ness and ef­fi­cien­cies of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act, the grow­ing fo­cus for hos­pi­tals on con­tin­ual im­prove­ment of the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence pa­tients have at their fa­cil­i­ties is clearly tak­ing root. In this area—that of pos­i­tively driv­ing the pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence—the ACA cer­tainly is play­ing an im­por­tant role.

Hos­pi­tal mar­keters have his­tor­i­cally ex­am­ined the voice of the cus­tomer and re­lated pa­tient-ex­pe­ri­ence data as a best-prac­tice method­ol­ogy. How­ever, to­day, the shift to­ward pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence val­u­a­tions is driven sig­nif­i­cantly by eco­nomics. Health­care pro­fes­sion­als re­al­ize, with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ACA, hos­pi­tal re­im­burse­ments are af­fected by pa­tient-sat­is­fac­tion scores. The bet­ter the sat­is­fac­tion scores, the higher the level of re­im­burse­ment.

This fo­cus has nur­tured a shift in the man­age­ment needs of hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems and the rise of the chief ex­pe­ri­ence of­fi­cer (CXO). Th­ese lead­ers are charged with de­vel­op­ing pa­tient- fo­cused and less- in­sti­tu­tional cul­tures. We’re see­ing grow­ing in­ter­est from our clients’ health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions re­gard­ing CXO pro­fes­sion­als.

It’s all about cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence lead­ing to im­proved loy­alty, pos­i­tive word-of­mouth re­fer­rals, and re­turn vis­i­tors to their es­tab­lish­ments.

The CMS has de­vel­oped nu­mer­ous ways to gauge pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion. Much of its ef­forts are fo­cused on pa­tient sur­veys. Pa­tients also have the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress other is­sues re­lated to their ex­pe­ri­ence. Th­ese may in­clude the qual­ity of food, avail­abil­ity of staff to an­swer ques­tions, the abil­ity of health­care pro­fes­sion­als to ad­dress pa­tients by their names, etc. It just comes down to show­ing common cour­tesy to ev­ery­one.

We have been asked: “What type of ex­pe­ri­ence do you need in a CXO?” There is no one-size-fits-all cri­te­ria, but here is a sam­ple of the types of ex­pe­ri­ence and traits that hos­pi­tals look for:

Clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence: Clin­i­cians, es­pe­cially those with “high emo­tional in­tel­li­gence” skills, of­ten have the most oneon-one con­tact with pa­tients. Many charge nurses and chief nurs­ing of­fi­cers have made the tran­si­tion to the CXO man­age­ment role. Keep in mind that for many sys­tems, nurses have largely led the drive to im­prove pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ences. But with­out physi­cian ac­cep­tance and op­er­a­tional lead­er­ship, or­ga­ni­za­tions are only talk­ing the talk with­out gen­uine buy-in and support, which are needed to achieve suc­cess.

New gen­er­a­tion health­care providers: In some cases, hos­pi­tals are look­ing beyond ex­pe­ri­enced baby boomer types to many Gen X or some Gen Y pro­fes­sion­als who un­der­stand that ex­pe­ri­ence, sat­is­fac­tion re­port­ing and ac­cu­rate data are keys to a hos­pi­tal’s cur­rent suc­cess and fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity. This is par­tic­u­larly true if they also bring cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment and strong business data anal­y­sis to the ta­ble.

Empathetic for­mer pa­tients: We’ve worked with ex­ec­u­tives who have di­rect ex­pe­ri­ence as pa­tients fight­ing a chronic dis­ease. This knowl­edge builds em­pa­thy, un­der­stand­ing and cre­ativ­ity when it comes to pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple who have spent time as pa­tients know first­hand how to treat pa­tients with dig­nity and re­spect. They should be strong can­di­dates for ex­ec­u­tive-level po­si­tions.

Ev­i­dence of in­dus­try ex­pan­sion around the CXO role is easy to see. Cleve­land Clinic’s Pa­tient Ex­pe­ri­ence and In­no­va­tion Sum­mit has grown from one hos­pi­tal’s in­ter­nal cul­ture to na­tion­ally ad­dress­ing the needs of clin­i­cal out­comes and in­cen­tives. In four years, it has grown from a few hun­dred at­ten­dees to well over 800 at the most re­cent gath­er­ing.

The em­pha­sis on pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence and the crit­i­cal role of the CXO has far-reach­ing con­se­quences. Higher pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion leads to more en­gaged pa­tients, which leads to higher re­im­burse­ments.

Im­prov­ing pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence is good fi­nan­cially for a hos­pi­tal or health­care sys­tem. Just as im­por­tant, it’s just the right thing to do for bet­ter health­care out­comes.

As the fo­cus on cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence in­creases rapidly in Amer­i­can hos­pi­tals, the ex­pand­ing need for CXO lead­er­ship is on the radar of health­care sys­tems large and small, as well as their net­works. And this new ori­en­ta­tion is also a top pri­or­ity for the gov­ern­ing boards at th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions. Iden­ti­fy­ing the right lead­ers for th­ese roles re­quires board mem­bers and se­nior lead­ers who can iden­tify the skill sets that will im­prove their or­ga­ni­za­tions in to­day’s in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive health­care en­vi­ron­ment.

If you want a gut check about the im­por­tance of the pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence and the rise of the CXO, ask your­self this ques­tion: “Would I want to be a pa­tient here or send my fam­ily mem­bers here?”

Brian John­ston is a part­ner with Stan­ton Chase In­ter­na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Search, a global re­tained ex­ec­u­tive search firm, and leader of its North Amer­i­can health­care prac­tice based in Nashville.

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