In a recent study published in Healthleaders Media, 84% of healthcare executives listed patient experience among their top three strategic priorities.[i] But there’s little consensus as to how to organize to create meaningful, sustainable improvement. At the University of Chicago Medicine, patient experience improvement is led by its Chief Medical Officer, a veteran quality and safety improvement leader, Stephen Weber, M.D. Dr. Weber and his team have taken on the task of “making the service match the science,” committing organizational resources and building a structure and rigor around their office of patient experience that makes experience a top strategic priority.
As a healthcare epidemiologist, Dr. Weber’s approach is deeply rooted in analytics and science. He sees the alignment between the skills and methodologies for driving improvement in quality and safety and those needed for patient experience improvement. “In quality and safety people are trained to focus on data, consistency (variation is the enemy of quality) and the idea of high reliability. Our new teams in patient experience had expertise in a completely different set of tools and approaches: true patient centeredness, storytelling and the engagement and empowerment of both patients and staff. As we brought the groups together we quickly appreciated just how much one team could teach the other. It’s really been quite exciting and has really driven the final design of our Office of Patient Experience..”
UCM’s experience organization chart aligns specific experience teams, such as patient relations, experience intelligence, experience improvement and innovation, and UCM’s friends and family program, with key clinical leadership including the Dr. Weber and the Chief Nursing Officer, Debi Albert. The team engages with a steering committee that includes top executive and clinical leaders. With this group, Weber says, “We inform (briefly – they need to look at the scorecard every day), we endorse (we ask them to endorse, consider, criticize and critique our plans – if we can’t sell it to them, we can’t sell it to frontlines), and we engage (we want them to leave with specific instructions of what they will do to carry this work forward).”
UCM’s experience work will continue to evolve. But the team has already achieved successes, the momentum from which is helping them gain allies and engage new partners. From January 2012 to October 2013, UCM’s scores for “willingness to recommend” have jumped 20% to 78% of respondents saying “definitely yes.” We expect this trend to continue as the UCM experience team persists in its mission: To elevate the healthcare experience by collaborating with patients, families, care teams, and physicians to deploy innovative solutions that foster lasting loyalty and create a legacy of experience excellence that builds upon our clinical outcomes. Or as Dr. Weber puts more simply, “When in doubt, do what is best for the patient.”