In talking with an old healthcare colleague this week about our plans for the year ahead, she shared one of her New Year’s resolutions was to focus more purposefully on improving the patient experience in her organization. While an admirable intention and perhaps also shared for my benefit as she knows I focus on this effort, it actually caused me to take pause.
The statement had me wonder where in the priority list experience now rests for both individual leaders and organizations. The Beryl Institute’s bi-annual patient experience benchmarking study as well as other research continues to show experience remains a top priority in healthcare. But, as my friend’s statement raised for me, I began to question if this priority was a resolution or response based on something one thought they should say or rather a statement of commitment to purpose and action.
As we start 2015, we can say with confidence that great strides have been made as we continue to push the experience movement forward. I believe there is a greater agreement on the importance of experience overall as a driver of better outcomes clinically, organizationally and fiscally. There is also stronger recognition in the power of patient and family voice and perspective and an acknowledgement of the need to align efforts around an integrated approach to quality, safety and service improvement. Also of significance is an increase in formal definitions of experience being adopted by healthcare organizations (a question we will explore again in the 2015 benchmarking study) and the associated focus on personal interactions and culture as reinforced by The Beryl Institute’s shared definition of patient experience. Finally we have seen a rise in the role of senior experience leaders, i.e. Chief (Patient) Experience Officers, system level VPs of Experience, etc.
In thinking about what these indicators of progress represent, they represent much more than resolutions, which are simple statements of intent. These efforts and the impact they are having reflect clear commitments to action and they represent tangible investments in time, people and resources. That commitment is what I have come to not only believe, but also see as the differentiator in patient experience excellence and success.
I am often asked the question ‘what should we do to improve patient experience in our organization’; in fact my colleague posed just that question after sharing her resolution. I could tell that she, as many others do, were looking for the checklist of practices, in order of priority, she could put in place to make a difference. My challenge to this question was reinforced in the very conversation and came back to what the growth of this movement has shown us all.
The tactics are clear, reasoned and can have an impact, but it is a commitment to something bigger that leads to the best in outcomes. Commitment is about purpose and intent, focus and strategy. It is about building a plan that meets your organization and those your serve where they are and works to stretch them all as partners and contributors to where you want to go. Yes commitment is a choice, which I find to be at the heart of experience success, and then smart choices can help you to identify the "what’s” we all are searching for.
As we look to the year ahead, I can say without hesitation that the patient experience movement continues on. We look to help guide this at the Institute through our own commitments: the growth of our resources and a global community now almost 30,000 strong, the continued support of research through the expanded reach of Patient Experience Journal and the development of professionals through new learning and formal certification. And I believe the movement continues on more so because of what choices you and your peers will make.
In committing to experience improvement, be it in physician practices or ambulatory settings, acute care or pediatrics, long-term care or hospice, you have moved beyond the idea of a resolution. Your choices, the ones you help others make and the ones you offer and honor are where we will build the next levels of our collective efforts. I, your team from, and your peers in the Institute community remain committed to keeping this movement progressing and together it will lead to even great things for the year ahead. Happy New Year to you all.
Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institue