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How can hospitals drive good patient experience

Posted Aug 02 2012 9:51am

by Jason A. Wolf

In an earlier Hospital Impact post I stressed that the healthcare sector recognizes patient experience not only as a phase or the latest management fad, but as a central component of all we do.

In defining patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care, we reinforce the incredible responsibility healthcare leaders have to think and act comprehensively to ensure the best experience possible for patients and families.

This commitment is not only about making people happy, it also is about considering the comprehensive nature of experience, which I suggest represents the critical interplay of quality, safety and service . We can no longer consider these distinct efforts, but rather must strive to structure opportunities in which we can create unparalleled care encounters and exceptional moments of truth.

In a study recently released by the Health Research Institute at PwC, the importance of ensuring we get the patient experience right by creating moments of truth was revealed. While the study covered a broad swath of consumer perspectives, some key considerations were raised with healthcare far outpacing other industries when examining the actual impact of experience.

  • While other industries were led by choices based on price, 42 percent of consumers said personal experience was the top influencer in healthcare decision-making.
  • Seventy-two percent of consumers ranked provider reputation and personal experience as the top drivers of provider choice.
  • Personal experience in choosing a doctor or hospital is 2.6 times more important than other industries and peer recommendations are twice as important.
  • The attitude of staff defines six out of ten provider healthcare experiences, rendering attitude twice as important in healthcare as in the next closest industry.

The bottom line, experience and how we deliver on it matters to our patients, families and the communities we serve. So how do we deliver on this clear need?

In a paper just released by The Beryl Institute, we explore how healthcare organizations are actually structuring their efforts to deliver on these much-needed moments of truth. The study determined that 61 percent of healthcare organizations responding have a formal patient experience function.

The implications are immediately clear and should be alarming for many. As the PwC research reveals the importance of experience in driving consumer engagement and choice, those organizations that have not even built a function or process to address this need already are significantly behind.

As with the 2011 patient experience benchmarking research that showed only 27 percent of U.S. hospitals have a formal definition for experience (a sign that most have yet to frame what they are trying to achieve), the lack of structure to address this central component of healthcare points to a significant opportunity for many.

In parallel to this finding, 64 percent of respondents stated they had a dedicated patient experience leader. In a Hospital Impact blog post earlier this year I suggested a patient experience leader was needed in healthcare today. If, as we learned from the PwC research above, experience is the top driver of choice in healthcare and if we also believe that our patients, families and communities deserve the best in quality, safety and service--the ultimate in experience--then this opportunity cannot be overlooked. Other functions critical to the operations of healthcare organization have leaders and structures to execute on their requirements, such as human resources, finance, marketing, among a list of others.

Would it not make sense that as healthcare organizations, the choice is made to have a leader and structure with which to execute on efforts to provide the best of experiences for all who engage with our institutions?

We can stress the importance of this commitment all day long, but the truth will be revealed by the choices that your customers ultimately make. Creating unparalleled experiences in healthcare is no longer a nice to do, but a must do. There is a significant opportunity in establishing a structure for your patient experience efforts, especially if you want to ensure engaged, loyal patients and provide lasting, memorable moments of truth.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., is executive director of The Beryl Institute , where he specializes in organizational effectiveness, service excellence and high performance in healthcare. Follow Jason @jasonawolf and The Beryl Institute @berylinstitute on Twitter.

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