NewYork-Presbyterian CXO Rick Evans: As healthcare evolves, so does the role of experience leaders

The chief experience officer, or CXO, role in healthcare is still relatively new on the scene. 

The role came into being when organizations realized they needed defined leadership and strategies to accurately measure and meaningfully improve the patient experience. This imperative sprang from changes in both reporting and reimbursement structures, such as the CAHPS program and Value Based Purchasing. It also flowed from rapidly evolving patient expectations in the very competitive healthcare market. The result was the emergence of the CXO role.

Impacting patient experience is no different than any other critical pillar of performance in healthcare, whether that be improving quality, safety, finance or employee engagement. If you want to succeed, you need a plan. A plan relies on good data, defined goals and evidence-based interventions launched and monitored to improve the experience. That's what moves the metrics. Over the last decade or so, a defined body of knowledge about effective approaches to improve patient experience has developed. The best CXOs in our industry know this, and they execute on this body of knowledge in their organizations. This is the base of our work.

However, new dynamics are now emerging that I believe will further cause the CXO role to evolve. Organizations and their experience officers need to be ready to ride this wave of change and evolution.

One dynamic is rooted in changes in our society itself. Technology and our experiences with other sectors are turning the focus increasingly to patients as customers. The tolerance for healthcare being different from almost every other part of our lives in terms of access, convenience and service is rapidly eroding. 

Thus, the healthcare sector finds itself in a period of momentous change. We are restructuring ourselves to become more and more digital. Patients are expecting to be able to link with their providers and with needed resources virtually, on their timeframe. Prospective patients are also looking for real-time access and the ability to transact business on their devices, again, in their timeframe. 

The name of the game is access and convenience. The expectation is that individual preferences are solicited and attended to. One size definitely does not fit all. Thus, effective patient experience strategies also need to include robust approaches to solicit and address individual preferences and to provide frictionless access to customers. CXOs can and should be leaders of this evolution for their organizations. 

Another change is evolution in the understanding of what "patient experience" really means. I'm privileged to be a member of an organization called The Beryl Institute. The institute has become a critical think tank in the patient experience space and is a gathering place for many in the PX field. The Beryl Institute has advanced the notion that the term "patient experience" doesn't cover it anymore. 

It's the Human Experience. This concept recognizes that patients often come with a constellation of others – families, loved ones, surrogates and even other providers. Customers seeking healthcare often come with others too. For example, I am the "coordinator" of healthcare in my house and often even for my broader family and friends. When I am seeking a resource for myself, I form impressions that lead me to select or recommend resources for my family. My experience cascades to many others. 

The notion of human experience also embraces the other side of the equation — healthcare providers and staff. If we are going to offer a meaningful patient experience, we need to both understand and leverage all of these people and resources. I can assure you that this is a long way from how we were thinking about this years ago. It's not as much about "service" as it is about "connection" in the fullest sense of that word.

The above dynamics are changing how CXOs conceive of and structure our work. 

In my day to day, it means thinking as much about access as I do about compassion. It means actively partnering with my colleagues in human resources on efforts to grow engagement among our teams, which is especially important as we recover from the pandemic. It means working with our clinical leadership on efforts to improve access and also the experience of providers in our practices. It means assuring that the patient and customer perspective is baked into our goals and initiatives in a strategic — not patronizing — way. 

More than ever, the CXO role has evolved into an even more strategic frame. The days of just reading surveys and scores are past. A greater vision is required to respond to the dynamics happening all around us.

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