Why every role in healthcare has a hand in improving the patient experience

A positive customer experience has become a marker of success across industries, and healthcare is no exception.

To drive sustainable patient experience improvements, health systems need to challenge existing thoughts and better understand how people, clinical processes, and technology can work together, explained Jason Wolf, PhD, CPXP, president and CEO of The Beryl Institute, in a June 4 webinar.

During the webinar, hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by JobvitePerfectServe and SecureAuth, Wolf shared the key drivers of the patient experience, explained why every role in the system can improve the experience, and described how leaders can use lessons from the COVID-19 crisis to build a better experience.

The discussion was moderated by Molly Gamble, vice president of editorial of Becker's Healthcare and editor-in-chief of Becker's Hospital Review. 

Here are five key takeaways from the webinar:

1. Experience goes beyond satisfaction. The experience isn't just about a patient's satisfaction of their care journey. Instead, it should be looked at as a "sum of the interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions along the continuum of care," Wolf said. This means providers need to align and connect quality, safety, cost, outcomes, and service, while also understanding a human connection is key. And the experience matters for the patient, but also their families and loved ones who are visiting the patient. 

2. Relational interactions matter more than facility offerings. According to Wolf, patients said their experience is shaped by relational interactions with staff more than physical aspects of the building or amenities at the hospital. A Beryl Institute study asked patients to rank what specific items shaped their healthcare experience. In fact, 71 percent of patients said the most important aspect to experience is feeling like they are being listened to, and 67 percent said clear communication was the second-most important. Just 33 percent of patients said the age of the facility mattered in shaping their experience, Wolf said.

3. Every role in the healthcare system matters to the patient experience, especially during and after a crisis like COVID-19. The COVID-19 crisis has reemphasized the importance every role in healthcare plays to improve the patient experience, Wolf said. Staff across every department, from housekeepers to supply workers to physicians to leadership, play a part in shaping the relational and perceptive patient experience. This proves especially true in an era when hospitals are working harder to secure basic needs like equipment, redeploying people to new roles to better fit patient demand, boosting telehealth access for patients, and grappling with staff burnout and strains on mental health, Wolf said.

4. Transformational change is needed to drive the future of patient experience. To improve the human experience there need to be changes in perspective, process, and focus, Wolf said. A change in perspective includes ensuring that healthcare moves to a more integrated, seamless experience for patients, compared to the more siloed process of today. A change in process means that interactions will be more relational in nature instead of being purely transactional. A change in focus means encouraging people in the healthcare industry to look for ways to be active — in other words, doing things that effect change — rather than being aspirational.

5. Hospitals must understand what their "new existence" will look like after the pandemic. The Beryl Institute suggested several core items healthcare organizations need to rethink. They include reframing “consumerism” to mean a patient and consumer partnership, addressing process burdens and workload issues for staff to be able to provide a proper relational experience, and expanding beyond illness treatment (which is reactive) to find ways to proactively address and promote the wellbeing of communities.

To learn more about patient experience amid a crisis and beyond, listen to the full webinar here.

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