Hackensack Meridian Health CXO Nancy Corcoran-Davidoff on helping caregivers connect consistently

Nancy Corcoran-Davidoff, executive vice president and chief experience officer of Hackensack (N.J.) Meridian Health, discusses the importance of supporting clinicians through change, engaging patients while they are still in the hospital and why wellness will become a key focus for the CXO role.

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

Question: What is the No. 1 challenge facing healthcare chief experience officers?

Nancy Corcoran-Davidoff: I think probably the biggest challenge really is consistency of performance. We have a lot of information now, a lot of technology, a lot of demands on the caregivers. We are trying to give them the tools and the skills that they need to provide a much more human patient-centered experience for the community.

But it's changing how they work. It's always a challenge to get people to think differently about how they are working through the things they need to do. There is an enormous amount of change in healthcare right now and I think providers are being asked to disrupt the way they deliver care and think differently. That takes time.

To boil it down, I think it's change management. We have to really manage this change and help the providers think differently about how they deliver care.

The other thing is involving patients and families in the delivery of care. For some of the providers, you know, it comes very naturally, [and some say] 'I've been doing this with my patients for years' and many of them have, but it's not consistent across the delivery of care.

Question: How do you plan to tackle it?

NCD: One of things is really understanding their challenges — what are they challenged with on a daily basis that prevents them from making these kinds of connections with patients. At the end of the day, people go into healthcare, certainly the people at the bedside go into healthcare, to connect with patients, to provide care and to be there for their patients, and so I think that what we need to focus on is understanding from them what are the barriers preventing them from doing that consistently. And then help try and remove those barriers.

And you hear lots of things from [the providers about the barriers.] You hear complexity of patients, you hear volume of patients, and as much as people feel that technology and many of the tools we are providing should streamline care and help them, it's still big changes they have to adapt to.

So, as we are implementing change, how do we help them meet the needs of their patients? I use the expression ' you are living in the house while you are building the house.' When we convert to an EMR, we don't close the doors for a day and stop caring for patients. We have to make sure there is no interruption in the delivery of care.

I think working side-by-side with the providers and helping them to move through the change and to get to the other side, where the tools, and the technology, and the things we are asking them to do are maximized [is] the ultimate goal.

Q: What are some of the untapped opportunities to improve patient experience today?

NCD: For us, right now, our greatest opportunity is access. We are planning the implementation of a centralized call center, where our patients can call and schedule appointments and follow-ups and get what they need consistently across our system.

[The question is] how do we make sure that our patients can access the different levels of care that they need at a very high level of service?

So, we are looking at telehealth, we are looking at call center technology, we're looking at how patients and people in our community interact with us digitally and get information and get services.

Q: What are some key goals you hope to accomplish before the end of the year?

NCD: We are looking to get to a level of consistency on the new ways that we're delivering care. So, for example, we are working with our nursing leader on different techniques for delivering care in our acute care hospitals, educating our nurses around that and getting to a consistent process, [such as] involving patients in the bedside shift reports. While the nurse who is coming on, or the nurse who is just leaving are doing their handoff, their transition of care at the bedside — [we are] involving the patient in that conversation.

We also have a process where we do hourly rounding on our patients to make sure their needs are being met. We are standardizing that process and making time to get to a very high level of consistency.

We're also looking at leader rounding. So, making sure our leaders are rounding on a certain number of patients on a daily basis and documenting and resolving any barriers to their satisfaction.

We've implemented real-time feedback, so we have different ways to give nurses and our managers feedback from their patients on a real-time basis. We recently implemented a tool that is a combination of real-time feedback from patients who are hospitalized and a recognition platform, so patients have the opportunity to write notes to their caregivers and thank them or identify something they want them to do better while they are here.

For years, we got feedback from patients after they left, and it's hard to make things better when its old news, in a way. So, we've put something in place where they can let us know, in real time, while they are still here, and while we can impact their care, information. So that's something we've rolled out in a number of our hospitals and we are in the process of rolling it out across our network.

Q: How do you see the role of the chief experience officer evolving in the healthcare field over the next 5 years?

NCD: I think you'll see a lot more of them. Right now, I think probably 25 to 30 percent of the large health systems have a chief experience officer. So I think you are going to see a lot more of the organizations hiring chief experience officers.

You also see variation in the chief experience officer role. In my role, I have responsibility for experience and that means that I have responsibility for patient experience, team member experience and physician experience. So I'm responsible for human resources as well as all of our patient experience work.

One of the things I'm already seeing is that the chief experience officer is becoming also a wellness officer — looking at the health of our team and making sure they are healthy and resilient and fit for duty, so to speak. That makes sure that they can then focus on the care of the patients. You know, you are seeing many, many articles about the level of burnout amongst our caregivers and we need to may attention to that. We can't ignore those numbers.

Many of the current chief experience officers exclusively have patient experience [as their focus], but they don't have human resources and they don't have wellness under them. And I think that those three things go hand in hand. You can't get the level of engagement and consistency performance that you want unless you are first taking care of the team, so that they can then focus their attention on the patients and the community.

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