NewYork-Presbyterian CXO Rick Evans: What's on patient experience leaders' to-do list this spring

Last week, I did something I haven't done in a long time. I went in person to a professional conference. The meeting was the "ElevatePX" conference sponsored by The Beryl Institute, an organization dedicated to advancing the human experience in healthcare. The Beryl community is over 60,000 strong and is comprised of patient experience leaders, patient advocates and other organizations involved in patient experience work.

This was the first time I have been in the same physical space with my colleagues in over two years. It was a powerful moment — if a bit unsettling to be in crowds again — but also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with people who do the same work I do all across America.

It was an uplifting few days, filled with themes worth sharing as we all continue the work of improving patient experience.

First, nearly every organization I encountered at the meeting was engaged in work to recover lost ground in patient experience performance as we move through what we all hope is the last phase of the pandemic. We are coming through a national crisis in patient experience that is evidenced in declining ratings from patients nationwide. I spoke with many colleagues about how they are creating plans to renew focus on patient experience. Some organizations shared how they are restoring core best practices within their organizations such as bedside rounding and post-discharge calls. Many are trying to bring innovation to their patient experience, leveraging virtual encounters that consumers are more comfortable with post-pandemic. It is heartening to see that, just as there is a national crisis in patient experience, there is also a national recovery underway. Every healthcare leader should be asking themselves what your plan is to restore the experience for our patients and families.  

Another theme was a pervasive focus on equity in healthcare. There were numerous discussions centered on equity in outcomes, but also equity in the experience itself. There were presentations regarding equity in measurement (collecting data that helps us understand who our patients are), equity in access to services and technology, and equity in design of services for the future. Many organizations are working through challenges associated with collecting accurate data on racial, ethnic and sexual identity. Collection of this data requires careful communication to strengthen trust with our patients and families. This work is critical for us to be able to effectively target efforts to address disparities in our communities. Hospital leaders should mobilize their patient experience teams and patient advocates to help with this work, as we are experts in building relationships. Judging by the energy around this issue at the conference, there are many in the patient experience community who are ready to be involved. 

A third theme was discussions of the return of volunteers to the healthcare space. Another hidden impact of the pandemic was the near-total disappearance of volunteers from the healthcare landscape. When restrictions were put in place for visitation at the bedside, many of the same restrictions were also put into place for volunteers. Many volunteers also ended their commitments out of concern for their own safety. As vaccines have arrived and we now better understand how to keep ourselves safe, volunteers have slowly started to trickle back into our organizations. Volunteers have long been a vital, but often underappreciated, part of healthcare. They not only help us all achieve our mission, but volunteering also offers people a pathway into healthcare careers. This is more important than ever in a time of severe staffing shortages and challenges. I left the conference feeling like we all need to ramp up and strengthen our plans to reconnect with our communities and to once again have robust volunteer programs in our organizations. 

A final theme is the involvement of patient advisors and advocates in our organizations. The Beryl Institute has always been a place where patient advocates are engaged and involved at all levels. This was prominent again this year. I am struck by how many healthcare organizations still have trouble finding ways to meaningfully involve patients in making us all more patient- and family-centered. Advisory councils still languish in many organizations. We still struggle with bringing patient advisors in at the start of design processes. There is plenty of opportunity for innovation in involving patients as advisors through virtual means. In our work with patient advisors at NewYork-Presbyterian, I have seen abundant evidence that involving advisors early and often makes the final product — whether that be design of services or facilities — much better. Yet, that involves investment of both time and money. If the Beryl Conference is any indication, there are hundreds of well-trained and expert advisors out there wanting to partner with us. We need to do a better job of leveraging this powerful resource.

I am glad I got on a plane and spent time with my peers last week. I came home with a new list of "to-dos" for our work. We should all be thinking about these issues in our own organizations. 

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