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Patient experience goes beyond provider walls

Posted Aug 14 2013 2:05pm

by Anthony Cirillo

Time to revisit my take on a term I put forth several years ago, the chief experience officer .

On my first go-around, it was simple enough. I was a marketer. One of the biggest marketing tools you have is word of mouth. And word of mouth comes down to the experience of care. Therefore, if it is that important shouldn't we have a chief experience officer (CXO)? Evidently the Cleveland Clinic thought so.

On my second go-around , I actually filled out roles for this position--chief context setter, chief healing officer, chief promise keeper.

So here is the third go-around, which gets to where healthcare in general is moving--out of the provider setting.

Sessions at the World Health Congress earlier this year paid providers some attention; long-term care no attention and care in the home all the attention. It is hard to grasp that the public could actually receive most of their care in non-acute settings, aided by telemedicine. In our day-to-day quest for fee for service, it is hard to see through those trees.

And while industry forecasters have been visioning this, the hospital sector certainly has not. And that is why I was surprised that on the same day, Hospitals & Health Networks Daily newsletter contained two items: One was an article on the rise of retail clinics and how some hospitals are now looking at them as partners for their overflow care. The other item was a video interview with Scripps Health's Eric Topol, M.D., who said a world where hospitals only exist for intensive care, surgery and other procedures is closer than we think.

The need for chief experience officers in my opinion is now more urgent than ever. If you buy the roles I put forth, you first realize that as accountable care organizations develop and providers partner to deliver care, there must be a cultural and value fit between them. And let's face it. Most systems own a lot of the continuum so this discussion may be limited to say nursing homes and maybe assisted living partners--the pieces by and large not typically owned.

But taking it further, you now must integrate durable medical equipment, device manufacturers, telehealth providers, skilled home health and the thousands of mom-and-pop custodial care providers into the mix. After all, it will be the certified nursing assistants who will be trained and tasked with telemonitoring, supported by physicians on the back end.

And with WalMart's aggressive stance to enter primary care, well, the continuum is indeed blurring. That is why perhaps in the short term, ACOs need a CXO to bridge the continuum.

But there is more at play here. Moving care into other settings and the home is really starting to look at care holistically and certainly beyond the clinical. That gets into the life basics. Food, shelter, heat, social support and happiness--in short, it is about a person-centered environment .

Not our job? Well what is our ultimate job? If it is health in all its manifestations than we need to see the big picture and connect the dots. And that's bigger than population health.

For the most part I have seen, and rightly so, physician CXOs. I don't have the new job description for this expanded role just yet but it seems you need a Steve Jobs-type of person in it. I suggested as much in this blog post . We need people with vision who can connect the dots and imagine solutions that people don't know they need (yet).

And we are running out of time. Baby boomer CEOs are retiring en masse and few organizations have secession plans in place. It is in that void where the possibility of Topol's extinction principle could come true.

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting , which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He also is the expert guide in Assisted Living for About.com .

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