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When Did We Start Caring About the Patient Experience?

December 17, 2015

patient-experienceI was in Dallas at the Beryl Institute’s 5th annual Patient Experience Conference last week. Several hundred people were in attendance and every session was about some component of improving the patient experience.

Some of the attendees were “Patient Experience Officers” – a title that didn’t even exist until recently. It made me realize that there probably weren’t such conferences even ten years ago. I recall teaching graduate physical therapy students a class on the U.S. Healthcare System fifteen years ago and we were projecting that “eventually” payments would be tied to outcomes, including patient satisfaction. It seemed crazy. I also recall speaking to a group of surgeons at a conference ten years ago and advising them that they need to think about this topic because their own reimbursement would be tied to the patient experience. The comments and looks I received essentially said “why would we ever do that??!!” (I spoke again at the same conference recently and reminded them of that response.)

So, it’s a recent development and, somewhat sadly, driven by reimbursement strategies that take the patient experience into account. You’d think that given the nature of the work, we’d have taken the patient experience seriously long ago. Partially, because patients pay a lot of money for healthcare services and, more importantly, because their experience impacts not only their specific condition, but their overall health and well-being.

Much of the discussion around the patient experience is about technology, and processes – How to improve upon patient rounding, digital solutions, mapping the patient experience, making hospitals quieter, and engaging physicians in improving the patient experience. It’s great to see, though, that many of the sessions focus on relationships, communication, collaboration, and the behaviors that make up the patient experience. To a large degree, the patient experience (and the patient’s family experience) is about the people who are taking care of them and meeting their needs – from the person that parks their car, to the person at the information desk, physicians, nursing assistants and nurses and the nurse navigator on the phone. Regardless of the processes put in place, do these people interact in a way that always puts the patient first? Do nurses build their day around completing their tasks, or around meeting their patients’ needs?

People matter. Behaviors drive the culture – and now we finally have a broad realization that a culture built to maximize the patient’s experience (including, of course, their clinical outcomes), matters – a lot. And so we have 500 or so people spending 3 days learning about how to improve it and take what they’ve learned back to their respective hospitals.

Our goal is to make sure that HR, specifically talent acquisition and training and development professionals know that they can have a profound impact on the patient experience. It all starts with who we bring into the organization and what behaviors we reward and develop. This doesn’t happen by chance. It takes a deliberate effort to define the behaviors we value and systems to select candidates with those behaviors skills. No system is perfect. No tool will be 100% accurate in identifying an individual’s chances for success in your organization, but you are making these decisions every day. Are you doing all you can to make sure they fit the patient-centered culture you envision? What would you give to have NOT hired that unit manager who clearly doesn’t get it and everyone’s been paying for it for years? We may be a bit late to the realization, but the patient is a consumer and the patient experience is central to whether you fulfill the mission of your organization.

To learn more, see our free whitepaper: Do Your Talent Strategies Support a Patient-Centered Culture?

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.