This blog first appeared in the Follow the Conversation section of The Zetema Project website.
In recent years, much of the focus for healthcare transformation has been on utilizing technology and data to improve quality and efficiency. Unfortunately, this shift has frequently come at the expense of more human aspects of the field: the trusted caring relationship between provider and patient. Perhaps the most significant “collateral damage” in this digital health era is the emotional exhaustion and burnout of a generation of physicians, nurses, and front line staff. Despite the near-ubiquitous presence of “patient-centered” language in health care quality discourse, the full realization of human-centeredness remains elusive in most care settings.
We’ve focused on all the wrong things in our attempt to improve healthcare outcomes. We spend more than any other nation, yet our results don’t show it. The key to improving quality, efficiency, and the patient experience is to invest in our most important asset: the doctors, nurses, and staff that care for our communities. We can train the skill of wellbeing. If we optimize employee wellbeing and performance, we can drive improvement in all other areas.
I believe that a challenge of this magnitude requires bold and courageous leadership at the highest level. For this reason, I propose the creation of a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) for the nation, at the level of the U.S. Surgeon General.
The CXO will oversee efforts to re-center the person as the primary focus of healthcare. This will include:
- Restoring empathy, efficiency, and quality to healthcare using lean management principles;
- Promoting human-centered design principles in healthcare technology and process improvement efforts;
- Embedding patients as “Experience Co-Design Fellows” in all hospitals and clinics nationwide (replacing the underutilized patient and family advisory councils that often simply rubberstamp design plans);
- Mandating training on improving organizational culture and communication practices to ensure seamless care transitions as well as competence and compassion at every patient encounter; and
- Creating “Metrics for Humanity” that assess resiliency, joy, and wellbeing of care teams and are applied to technologies that improve the outcome and experience of both staff and patients.
With sufficient legislative and programmatic infrastructure, these activities would help us transform our fragmented healthcare system beyond the “Triple Aim” of improving patient experience and health while reducing per capita healthcare costs. We can and should pursue the “Quadruple Aim” that includes restoring joy back to the practice of medicine using a truly interdisciplinary approach.
With the health of our nation at stake, isn’t it time to think bigger?