Improving the patient experience is no 'fluff' job: 4 CXOs weigh in

As hospitals and health systems face increasing pressure to evolve from volume- to value-based care delivery systems, organizational culture, reimbursement models and workflow are already experiencing or preparing for monumental shifts. The driving force behind the need for change is the goal of improving the patient experience while lowering costs.

In Vocera's Experience Innovation Network 2015 CXO survey report, "The Evolving Role of the Healthcare Chief Experience Officer," patient experience officers from healthcare organizations across the country give a close look at the changing responsibilities of the emerging CXO role and its growing importance.

"The chief experience officer is a critical leadership role in healthcare. This change agent is at the center of driving culture transformation and unifying quality, safety and experience strategies to improve care delivery," said M. Bridget Duffy, MD, CMO, Vocera Communications, co-founder of the Experience Innovation Network. "With a strong, respected CXO leading the change, healthcare organizations can restore human-to-human connection and engage patients, families and clinicians as equal partners in improving the health of the population."

The following four quotes from patient experience officers highlight the challenges CXOs face in creating system-wide infrastructure for experience improvement, top priorities and essential strategies for success in the experience leadership role.

1. "The work of improving the experience in our hospitals and organizations can sometimes be viewed as 'fluff' and easy work. It is not. We're changing a culture. While healthcare is obviously a caring profession, we don't always do a good job of communicating that care to those we serve. We know how to care FOR people — that's what we're trained to do. But while we care FOR people, we also need to show that we care ABOUT them. That's the game changer. It's the difference between good care and great care. It takes special skill to be able to do both and that's what we have to hardwire so that it happens for every patient, every time. This is one of the most challenging roles I've served in —but it's also one of the most rewarding."

Jacque Wilson, RN, CXO Truman Medical Center (Kansas City, Mo.)

2. "Across the country, we're making progress toward the triple aim by better aligning patient-centered philosophies, Lean methodology and fostering service cultures through training. The best organizations are differentiating themselves by engaging patients, physicians and staff to improve clinical processes; and, as a result, improving quality, experience and cost outcomes."

Tony Padilla, CXO, UCLA Health (Los Angeles)

3. "The continued challenge is to create 'meaning' with the work. Context is everything. We have to respect the challenges faced by all caregivers and layer our improvement efforts in a way that makes rational and emotional sense."

Sean Keyser, Vice President of Patient Experience, Novant Health System (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

4. "We knew we needed high-performing, interdisciplinary improvement teams at the frontlines, so we created a physician-nurse-administrator human experience leadership team model. Then we equipped them to succeed by creating a structured skills development curriculum including change management, adaptive leadership, and healthcare transformation.

As we continue to promote innovation around healthcare delivery, what has become clear is that strengthening communication and human relationships among interdisciplinary leaders at every level is critical to setting a cultural foundation to support meaningful change. Without deliberately enhancing those relationships, our ability to roll out an improvement 'system' or toolkit would be impossible."

Patrick Kneeland, MD, Medical Director for Patient and Provider Experience, University of Colorado Health (Aurora)

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