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Patient experience needs executive, committee support

Posted Aug 08 2012 2:51pm

by Doug Della Pietra

Last week, two prominent patient experience studies were released. The first, Structuring the Patient Experience Effort: An Inquiry of Effective Practice by The Beryl Institute , is "an investigation ... focused on catalyzing an expanded dialogue on how we begin to shape a greater patient experience effort."

The other, HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report Patient Experience and HCAHPS: Little Consensus on a Top Priority, set out to examine how effectively healthcare organizations are dealing with ever-increasing "consumer demands" exhibited by patients today. While each study's aim was different, a few noteworthy commonalities exist.

First, both studies reinforce an emerging trend in healthcare organizations, namely, the role that committees play in structuring patient experience efforts. The Beryl Institute found that 70 percent of respondents directly or tangentially make progress in their patient experience efforts by utilizing a committee structure. Similarly, the HealthLeaders report reveals that multidisciplinary committees hold primary responsibility of patient experience efforts in 28 percent of healthcare organizations, compared to CEOs at 21 percent.

Interestingly, the report signals a decline over the past year among respondent organizations primarily relying on multidisciplinary teams to drive patient experience efforts--35 percent to 28 percent. With that 7 percent decline, CEO primary responsibility for the patient experience increased 7 percent from 14 percent to 21 percent.

A second commonality is the significance of executive leadership and support for successful patient experience outcomes. The Beryl Institute's study found that 83 percent of patient experience leaders report up to the CEO, chief operating officer or chief nursing officer. In interviews conducted by the study's authors, patient experience leaders noted the central importance of executive leadership approval and support for their success.

Similarly, and as mentioned above, respondents identified the growing overall responsibility of CEOs when it comes to the patient experience. "Leadership engagement seems to be at the heart of successful patient experience cultures," concludes Douglas Luckett, COO of North Carolina's CaroMont Health and lead advisor for the HealthLeaders Media Intelligence report.

Finally, each study features a list of top barriers that impact initiating and sustaining patient experience efforts. Here are a few of the challenges common to both studies:

  • Too many and competing priorities
  • Lack of overall game plan and difficulty sustaining momentum
  • Lack of staff, management, and executive buy-in and support
  • Funding/budgeting constraints
  • Difficulty obtaining physician buy-in

Doug Della Pietra is the director of Customer Services and Volunteers for Rochester General Hospital in New York, where he co-chairs the hospital's Patient Experience Team, in addition to responsibilities for an intentionally-designed patient- and family-centered volunteer program and front-line First & Last Impression initiatives. Follow Doug @DougDellaPietra on Twitter.

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