How CXOs chart progress amid a pandemic: 4 leaders weigh in

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed some aspects of patient experience, but at the core of it, health systems' goals remain the same — make sure patients feel comfortable and safe when receiving care. Patient experience leaders across the country are working toward this goal and guiding their teams through unchartered territory.

At a Sept. 2 session at the Becker's Patient Experience + Marketing Virtual Forum, a panel of patient experience leaders discussed progress in the patient experience during the coronavirus pandemic. Panelists included:

● Pam Guler, vice president and chief experience officer at Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth
● Lisa Drumbore, vice president and chief experience officer at New Brunswick, N.J.-based Saint Peter's Healthcare System
● Rick Evans, senior vice president and chief experience officer at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City
● Susan Murphy, RN, chief experience and innovation officer at University of Chicago Medicine

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How do you mark your team's progress daily? What about monthly or annually?

Rick Evans: We are a data-driven organization, and sometimes people think patient experience is carved out from that. All of us would tell you that's not true. There are reliable metrics. We know what our patients think and feel, we know what their priorities are, and you can track that over time. So patient experience improvement is hardcore quality improvement. It's no different. We do the same kind of work. We look at data, we set targets, we deploy knowledge and best practice, and we try to move the needle over time.

COVID hasn't changed that. Now we may be asking different things. We may be asking in different ways. I do think it's pointed to a need, quite frankly, to get away from paper surveys — that's 1979, it's 2020. So, we do need to see, particularly in government, promulgated surveys like HCAHPS.

But we also huddle. We talk to one another. We see each other, and review what's going on. We are implementing different initiatives in our organizations around visitation. We're implementing initiatives around helping communicate the safety measures that are in place for our patients as they come back. And that requires project management. So, we get together to see, 'Well, where are we on the milestones we set for ourselves to implement initiatives?'

So I would say that the nature of the things we're working on has changed a little bit, but the measurement we use is the same — data and good project management — to make sure that just like all of our colleagues in the hospital, we're getting things done and meeting the needs of our patients and families.

Susan Murphy: We check in with our leaders to make sure, 'Are you OK? Are you showing up with that joyful spirit — your actions, your attitudes and behaviors every day — to make sure that's carried out to those that are caring for our patients and our families?'

We do in management a daily improvement huddle every morning. We do a call, but it's also not just about the metrics, it's also about behavior. And that to me is magnified now more than ever, because the front-line staff, our leaders and our senior leaders, need to have a cohesive culture to continue to carry on what we need to do for everyone.

Pam Guler: As far as monthly and annual metrics, we still definitely track our traditional metrics and measures that we have around our surveys, etc. We regularly [track] on a monthly, actually more real-time basis, but monthly and annually as well, track the sentiment of what we're hearing in at least 400,000 comments that we get across our system through all of the surveys that we do in the different care settings.

We are also really monitoring right now on a very regular basis, at least monthly, if not more, the operational measures, as well as the experience measures around what we've newly implemented in the virtual space. Can't emphasize that enough. When you go from 1 percent virtual visits with our caregivers to 80 percent overnight, and stand that up extremely quickly, being able to, first of all, understand the operational measures around that — the sheer count of virtual visits, how that's going, as well as the experience both our caregivers and our patients and families are having with it — is critical.

We have also stood up contactless or contact-free registration across our system, using a vendor-provided product to really help us with that. We're finding a very high satisfaction [rate] with that experience. We want it to be even better, and we're fine-tuning it.

Lisa Drumbore: One of the things that I would add is [looking at] your external brand promise. Ours is 'treating you better for life.' And then we added post-COVID, as we move forward, 'safely treating you better for life.' So one of the critical elements is ensuring that you are delivering that brand promise. It can't be just an empty marketing communication.

We have always had a forum which we call personal advocate day. We do it every quarter where every member of the senior team, along with every leader that has a measurement metric in the patient experience landscape, come together and not only look at the outcome with the data, but more importantly, the voice of the customer.

And I do feel as though having that in the culture really was very helpful for the leaders, for the employees, for everybody to rally around why metrics are important. Get people to understand what a comment really means. Because sometimes, there is that sense that the patient experience is just about being kind, but it's so much more than that.

More articles on patient experience:
Moving toward a 'new normal': How hospitals are convincing patients it's safe to come back
Cleveland Clinic's CXO: 4 important promises to patients
Lehigh Valley Hospital apologizes after patients report meal delays

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