Patient experience is often viewed as “fluffy” when juxtaposed with pursuits such as quality, safety, outcomes, and even cost containment. Those of us committed to healthcare experience transformation get frustrated when our efforts are brushed aside as window dressing, valet parking, or a plastered on smile accompanying the real work of medicine.
At ExperiaHealth we are committed to putting science behind the human experience of care, to prove the interplay between clear communication and human connection and measurable clinical outcomes, but we know this achievement will take time. So we’re willing to work with what we have, which, at the moment, is changes in reimbursement that allow at least some hard dollars to be attributed to patient experience.
Flawed as tools like HCAHPS may be in capturing the depth and detail of what it means to humanize healthcare, the introduction of value-based purchasing (VBP) allows us in the experience movement to tell a different kind of story about why hospitals and health systems should invest scarce resources into experience improvement initiatives. We built a simple model that allows members of our Patient Experience Collaborative to calculate the dollars associated with specific changes in HCAHPS scores for their institution.
One hospital, for example, implemented a discharge follow-up call program that resulted in an average 3% improvement across each of its HCAHPS domains (not just the discharge-specific ones). By running those numbers through our model, we were able to show the revenue recaptured through VBP as a result of the call program that justified the resource allocation. And this didn’t even include revenue protected by readmissions reduction (which the hospital also measured), or the potential benefits in word-of-mouth referrals.
When we talk about experience improvement, we often talk in terms of lives touched, purpose restored, gratitude boosted, and fears and concerns alleviated. And we should continue to do so. But when we talk to a CFO or a clinical leader with other priorities, we need to be able to shift our stories. We need to be able to tell a story about ROI, a story about reduced readmissions, a story about clinical outcomes improvement, and a story about retention and loyalty. Because when stories hit home for their audiences, there’s nothing more powerful.