7 chief experience officers on patient experience initiatives that can't wait

Regardless of the crisis of the moment — be it a crushing nursing shortage or nonstop stream of patients with respiratory illnesses — hospitals that fail to keep a close eye on providing extraordinary patient experience will pay, one way or the other.

Likely, community reputation will take a hit, HCAHPS scores will fall and the hospital's bottom line will suffer.

Becker's reached out to chief experience officers throughout the United States and asked one pressing question: If nothing else, what is the one thing hospitals should do to improve patient experience now?

Here are seven responses:

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Jim Cooper. Assistant Vice President, Patient Experience of Inspira Health (Vineland, N.J.). Each organization should challenge the statement: "That's how we do it. We've been doing it that way for years." The pandemic has taught us now, more than ever, our patients' voices are crucially important to understanding how to best support them. 

The key takeaways are the same as what they've always been: "Listen to me," "Respect me," "Help me," and, "Then prepare me to help myself when I am not with you." Go back and revisit how effectively it's being done. That might tell you more than what you thought you knew about that given practice. 

Rick Evans. Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital (New York City). The most critical things we can do to improve the patient experience are working to leverage the whole team and taking non-essential items off the "to-do list" for our front-line staff.  

Patient experience is primarily about communication between our clinical teams and patient families. Sometimes that communication and education work falls disproportionately on our physicians and nurses. While these clinicians certainly have primary responsibility, we have many groups interfacing with patients and families all day. When we all better understand the patient's plan, we can all play a role in communicating, connecting the dots and reinforcing key messages.

Lisa Drumbore. Vice President of Marketing and Communications/chief patient experience officer of Saint Peter's Healthcare System (New Brunswick, N.J.). Hospitals must do what they always should be doing to improve the patient experience. At Saint Peter's, our Journey to Excellence is continuously mission-driven and focuses on elevating the human experience in healthcare for all —  employees, physicians, patients, visitors and the overall community we serve. 

Authentic and enduring change in healthcare and beyond the industry means prioritizing the human experience and truly understanding the voice of the customer inclusive of those we serve and those who provide care and service. This is important, perhaps now more than ever considering workforce shortages and the "tripledemic." 

Mendy Goonan. Chief Experience Officer and System Director of Organizational Development of Central Maine Healthcare (Lewiston, Maine). Hospitals and health systems must continue to focus on the human experience of healthcare, including care team members and the patient. Health systems have to continue evolving with this in mind. 

Health systems will need to continually and intentionally seek feedback from team members, patients and their families followed up with action plans on how they will execute on this feedback in order to evolve a human, people-centered strategy.

Alex Greengold. Senior Vice President and Chief Consumer Experience Officer of Memorial Hermann Health System (Houston). If I had to say just one thing that will absolutely result in better patient experiences, it would be making a genuine human connection with every patient in every interaction. That interaction would be personalized to each patient's situation, and it would be full of empathy, compassionate support and encouragement for continued healing. 

There are other elements that are important, as well, including convenient access, simplified processes and clear contextual communication, as examples. If every patient consistently experienced this sort of authentic, personal connection with their care providers, it's the one thing with the power to make the biggest overall impact and improvement to the patient experience today. 

Amy Searls. Chief Experience Officer of Prime Healthcare (Ontario, Calif.). We should be focusing on our employees and providers, and specifically, their well-being and retention. We must build positive manager-employee relationships. Regular and consistent communication plays a significant role in building a climate of trust and respect. Creating an environment where staff feel valued and supported is critical for providing the best patient experience.

Stephanie Abbott. Chief Experience Officer of Adventist Health (Roseville, Calif.). If you want to improve the patient experience and improve healthcare employee retention, take care of the employees taking care of the patients. Your patient experience will never supersede your employee experience. Focus on improving the employee experience. Love them, support them and help them remove barriers so they can provide compassionate care to patients.

Editor's note: This article was updated Jan. 17 at 12:56 p.m. EST.

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