Meet Dr. Lisa Allen, patient experience chief at Johns Hopkins Medicine

Lisa Allen, PhD, chief patient experience officer of Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, discusses key strategies for engaging patients and their families, finding the time to train providers and the organization's patient experience improvement goals.

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

Question: What is the No. 1 challenge facing healthcare chief patient experience officers? How do you plan to tackle it?

Dr. Lisa Allen: Competing initiatives. There are many demands on healthcare providers' time, and fitting in training, education and patient journey mapping can be challenging. The best way to tackle this is to link the work. If we are teaching something new to registration staff, then we marry this with customer service training. When doing grand rounds, we add time for a patient story, or a short snippet on a simple strategy for great communication and de-escalation tools.

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

LA: First and foremost is engaging our patients and families in helping us improve. We can do this through patient and family advisory councils, comments on surveys and letters, design thinking and rounding. Hearing the voice of our patients is key. Second is to find those providers and staff members who are stellar at connecting with our patients and families. They become our champions and role models and provide invaluable insights. Third is to use performance improvement methodologies to set goals; improve, measure, reassess if needed; and ensure accountability for improvement.

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

LA: One of our six strategic priorities is 'making Hopkins easy.' We are implementing an app to help with wayfinding, [helping patients navigate] from home to parking space to appointment. Our organization is large and complex. The stress of going to a medical appointment is reduced if wayfinding is simple.

We also are focusing on improving our adoption of bedside electronic tablets for patient engagement. This tool allows our patients to see their inpatient medications, vital signs and educational materials, to name a few, without leaving their room.

Another key goal is increasing participation of a wider demographic of patients and families on our councils and committees, and through shorter targeted electronic patient experience surveys.

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

LA: I believe all staff members and providers must see themselves as experience officers. The chief patient experience officer will continue to be an influence leader, bring forward best practices, and be a connector and user of performance improvement tools and techniques. The chief patient experience officer makes sure the voice of the patient and family is heard and acted upon throughout all levels of the organization. Just as a great sports team needs a coach, the chief patient experience officer will lead a team of coaches to teach, share data and provide feedback for improvement. This role, like others in the C-suite, ensures that we do not lose focus of our reason for being — our patients and their loved ones.

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