I recently wrote about why healthcare organizations need a chief experience officer (CXO) just like they need a senior executive focused on quality, safety and performance improvement. You may argue that the patient experience is everyone’s responsibility. Shouldn’t quality, safety and efficiency be everyone’s responsibility? Without a dedicated c-level champion to spearhead improvement in quality and safety our nation’s health system would be in worse shape than we are today. The same is true of the patient, family and staff experience. No one seemed to think this mattered much until the government mandated we measure patient’s perception of their care and tied reimbursement to the scores. To rapidly make strides in this area, build patient and staff loyalty and improve outcomes, organizations need to appoint a credible leader to build an operating infrastructure for continuous improvement in the human experience of care.
So then the question becomes, what makes for a successful CXO? After establishing this role at the Cleveland Clinic and guiding other organizations in their journey to create an experience office, I believe it is critical to appoint a professional with a clinical background. Why? Because to truly transform healthcare, we need to focus on improving the human experience in clinical care and not simply create a customer service wrapper around existing broken processes.
To be successful, the CXO needs clinical credibility, strong leadership skills, and the ability to unify doctors, nurses, and staff around a shared mission. Business cases and service excellence concepts will sway executive, administrative, and support staff, but only a science-based, clinically relevant argument will bring doctors and nurses into leadership positions to drive change throughout the organization.
The CXO cannot succeed alone. The most successful organizations appoint a triad of physician, nursing, and administrative leaders working in partnership focused on innovations that improve communication and experience across the care continuum. These clinical leaders must have respect by their peers as well as a compelling vision to improve clinical outcomes and influence to drive adoption and results. They must also have the authority, accountability and resources to put a credible team in place that will collaborate with quality, safety and performance improvement teams to unify clinical initiatives and outcomes.
Experience transformation takes time and commitment. In the long-run, a strong culture that strives to constantly innovate around solutions that strengthen human connections, drive towards optimal outcomes, and control cost becomes self-sustaining. But to make meaningful headway, the experience team needs the support of a Board Committee focused on quality, efficiency and the human experience of care.
Many hospitals and health systems struggle to justify an investment of this magnitude while under intense pressure to rethink reimbursement and restructure their organizations. But the leading organizations know that driving innovation in the human experience by strengthening a culture of caring, bringing nurses and doctors back to the bedside, and using technology to hardwire the human experience is the only way they will meet their clinical and financial goals in the long run.