Patient experience strategies from 3 healthcare executives

Chief executives from ProMedica, UI Health and The Greeley Company explain how they leverage physicians to drive patient experience.

At the Becker's Hospital Review 6th Annual Meeting in Chicago May 7, three hospital and health system leaders weighed in on patient experience in a panel led by Scott Becker, JD, CPA, publisher of Becker's Healthcare.

Panelists included:

  • Arturo Polizzi, COO of ProMedica, based in Toledo, Ohio
  • Airica Steed, EdD, RN, enterprise CXO, faculty and clinical assistant professor of health policy and administration and nursing at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, based in Chicago
  • Rick Sheff, MD, Principle and CMO of The Greeley Company, based in Danvers, Mass.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and style.

On defining patient experience:

Dr. Steed said patient experience is difficult to define, but can be best described as the sum of all patient interactions, every touchpoint from outpatient to inpatient, beginning before care is even delivered and encompassing the entire care continuum. "Culture drives the patient experience," she said.

Mr. Polizzi said the sense of urgency has increased around creating a culture of patient experience. "From my perspective, culture is a pretty nebulous word. It's really about communication," he said. Constructing patient experience and keeping it consistent is complicated, he said.

Dr. Sheff said he knows patient experience when he sees it. It can be measured to some degree with HCAHPS scores, but it's far more than that. "Patient experience is hugely variable across the country. It goes to a basic leadership principle: If you don't make this a priority in your organization, it will not happen," he said.

On prioritizing patient experience:

Dr. Sheff said making patient experience a priority begins at the top. Leadership needs to make sure it's touching its people and processes regularly, he said. Monitoring human performance and getting people to perform consistently is a very leadership-centric process.

Mr. Polizzi said it's a matter of leadership, structure and resources. "Yes, [prioritization] does have to come from the top," he said, "But it's also getting the right people on the lines to lead [patient experience]." It's been difficult from the physician perspective, he said, although his organization has been working diligently to improve. Physicians are better positioned than administrators to really move the needle on patient experience, according to Mr. Polizzi. ProMedica has really focused on the physician leadership angle, he said.

On the role of technology:

Dr. Sheff said technology could both contribute to and undermine patient experience. "Right now, we see technology undermine more than contribute, especially with our EMR overdependence. I'm going to be a bit of an old school doctor right now. We can't make a diagnosis unless we've got an EMR," he said. "Listen to the patient. They will tell you their diagnosis." Healthcare needs technology, but it needs to use it the right way, he said. "If I'm with a patient and truly attending to them, I can see a look in their eye. It's the joy of being truly listened to. We don't do that enough in healthcare."

Dr. Steed said, "I'm very proud of the tools and tech enablers that we have been able to employ at UI Health." Her system strives to capture patient voice, provider voice and employee voice. "Every patient has the opportunity to provide a voice. Every single interaction will render a survey within 24 hours and, in addition, we have employed real time survey kiosks in ambulatory areas to receive patient voice before they leave the area of care," she said. Surveys ask about wait times, interactions with providers, if needs were met and it provides a space for open-ended feedback, according to Dr. Steed.

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