With the implementation of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers (HCAHPS) Patient Experience is seeing more and more attention from hospital leadership. In fact, in a recent study performed by HealthLeaders nearly 90% of top-level healthcare executives said patient experience is either their top priority or among their top five priorities. It is a classic example of what gets measured gets done. An area that was once perceived as “soft” and never properly resourced, is now seeing financial resources and talent aligned with it.
However, the real reason for focusing on improving the patient experience is not to chase another metric. Rather, we have seen that the drivers of quality and safety, employee experience, and patient experience are all the same. Studies from Bain, Press Ganey, and McKinsey on what creates a great patient experience have shown it is not about buildings or amenities, the true drivers of patient experience are compassion and communication. Similarly, studies on employee engagement have shown employees are most engaged when managers and leadership provide clear, open and honest communication. Finally, Joint Commission data has shown that communication is the number one root cause of sentinel events, with 65% of events showing communication as a cause.
The organizations that have made this connection between the Human Experience, for both patients and employees, and quality outcomes are not only seeing improvement in their patient experience efforts, but also in quality and safety and employee experience. That bring in the final piece of the puzzle, financial performance. Organizations doing well in these three areas are also outperforming their peers financially.
So, how do healthcare organizations achieve results across the board? One of the most effective practices is putting in place infrastructure to support experience improvement that is linked to existing programs focused on quality and safety. While most healthcare organizations have several resources aligned to quality and safety efforts and have operating mechanisms to monitor progress in Joint Commission core measures, they do not have similar alignment around improving the patient experience. When they do have resources aligned around patient experience, they generally do not have a seat in the C-Suite, are not truly on the strategic agenda, and are not connected with quality and safety efforts. Getting it right means meeting all three of these criteria.
Once the infrastructure is in place, it is time to execute on improvement. Again, in this area we see disjointed efforts in the form of process improvement projects, patient focus groups, secret shopping, and market research. Teams fail to connect in depth voice of patient and employee to detailed process mapping and metrics analysis, and miss the opportunity to really address the gaps in the experience. By implementing a model that maps the complete experience, clinical, physical, and emotional, from the time of diagnosis to post-discharge recovery healthcare organizations can gather a deep understanding of the drivers of outcomes and the human experience in their service lines, allowing them to make vast improvements. It comes down to asking the right questions that enable a true understanding the drivers of the experience, while also incorporating methodologies that map the process and touchpoints.
Ultimately, designing the experience around the patient, not a physical building or a specialty provider, is the key to changing the game, and treating more than the disease, but healing the human experience.