NewYork-Presbyterian CXO Rick Evans: If we want to restore healthcare financial margins, we need to maintain focus on patient and consumer experience

It's an understatement to say that the healthcare environment continues to be challenging for hospitals and health systems. Many healthcare organizations are focused on strengthening the bond with patients, rebuilding their experience and trying to balance that work with restoring financial margins that have taken major hits in the post-pandemic environment.

I had the opportunity to attend Press Ganey's national conference last month. It was great to be with colleagues again after years of virtual interactions. The experience was inspiring, but also sobering. In presentations and interactions with colleagues, I see a community still trying to right itself. We saw data that showed that patient experience ratings continued to decline through 2022. Many conversations I had with operations and patient experience leaders were focused on rebuilding programs and strategies to improve the experience in a very constrained financial environment.

Studies on consumer confidence in healthcare over the last few years have also shown erosion in confidence and trust. Healthcare now lags behind many other industries in this area. The continuing trend toward ever-increasing consumerism is only intensifying this dynamic. The true "currency" of healthcare — and certainly of patient experience —is confidence and trust. For many complex reasons, confidence in the healthcare system has taken a hit. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, relationships must be restored for any organization to be successful financially.

Margins are tight nearly everywhere, and tough choices are being made in healthcare organizations across the country. This often includes resources and focus on patient experience. While sacrifices may be required from every part of healthcare organizations, now is not the time to short-change or jettison the critical work of improving patient and customer experience. 

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we are doubling down on efforts to respond more effectively to the needs of our customers and to assure that our patients and families have an experience within our walls that is compassionate, responsive and confidence-building. It's hard work in the current environment. But we believe it's work that must be done. Maintaining a focus on patient experience is not only needed for those we serve but is also a necessary investment for the future. 

Margins obviously depend on volume. Volume is increasingly driven by consumer confidence. Consumers choose us when they believe they will be in good hands when they are with us. They will choose us when we are accessible, convenient and when they experience care that is connected and coordinated. If any of us are unable to provide this type of experience, our future viability is at risk. The consumerism trend and the entry of private equity into the healthcare market only amplify the imperative to adopt a customer-first mindset.

I heard a fair amount of rumbling and concern at the Press Ganey conference from colleagues that their resources and teams were at risk in the current storm of budget cutting. Sadly, it's still not uncommon across healthcare to see patient experience improvement resources deprioritized or marginalized in tough times. I believe such moves are shortsighted and may hurt more than help in the end. Our patients and families are sending clear signals that require our attention. We ignore these signals at our peril.

Yes, in these very tight times, we all may need to make sacrifices to keep our organizations fiscally healthy. We all need to do our part. However, I would urge all healthcare leaders to see the longer-     term picture and recognize that for our organizations to succeed, we must have the resources to support patient and consumer experience improvement.

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