The Four Cornerstones of an Exceptional Patient Experience

The following is an excerpt of a white paper of the same title available through a paid membership to The Beryl Institute. To learn more about obtaining a copy of the paper or becoming a member of The Beryl Institute, click here.

A focus on the patient experience has forced new conversations to the forefront of hospital operations. Patient care has been the primary focus and purpose of healthcare, but beginning in Oct. 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will introduce a value-based purchasing system that will link payment to clinical care and patient experience scores. While healthcare organizations now recognize the importance of ensuring an exceptional patient experience, many struggle with exactly how to accomplish this.

Improving the patient experience and creating consistency at the same time is a challenge, since every patient's healthcare encounter is different. Hospitals have always been surveying patient satisfaction, but quantifying the patient experience is a much broader task and will soon have financial implications.

Two recent surveys by The Beryl Institute asked hospitals about their efforts to improve patient experience and identified top-performers in this area. Using these results, four cornerstones of exceptional patient experience became apparent:

1.    Focus – Having dedicated leadership with the time to commit to service efforts has a measurable impact on outcomes.
2.    Accountability – Focus lends itself to accountability, but accountability is broader than one individual. Accountability is the recognition and commitment that improving on service is not an initiative, but rather an ongoing journey.
3.    Engagement – Employees at top performing organizations engage in service behaviors. The top organizations found ways to ensure their employees feel a sense of ownership for service outcomes.
4.    Commitment – While many of the paths, processes and programs might seem the same across top and bottom performers, it could be asserted that the way in which the top performers implemented these was different.

The Beryl Institute serves as a professional home for stakeholders who recognize that the patient experience is an essential element in the execution and evaluation of healthcare performance. The Institute defines the patient experience as "the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care." Editor's note: The complete white paper includes additional detail on the characteristics of top performers and case studies that illustrate service excellence.

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