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It is Time for the Experience Era

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., Thursday, May 05, 2016
Updated: Thursday, May 05, 2016

Just three weeks ago as we gathered at Patient Experience Conference 2016 I challenged our participants and the public watching us live that this is our moment in patient experience. If we look to make the kind of change we believe is needed in our new healthcare world, we must work to ensure the conversation on patient experience now rests at the heart of healthcare itself.

This commitment to experience requires a macro-perspective and one I continue to reinforce every chance I can. Patient (and family, resident, elder, etc.) experience is not just about satisfaction or even essential efforts such as patient engagement or approaches such as patient- and family-centeredness. Rather experience is ALL someone has in their encounter with a healthcare organization, be it in a clinical setting at the bedside or exam room, scheduling an appointment, engaging with a bill, and even communicating with a friend at a community event or while at the local market. Every one of these interactions shape the experience someone has, they shape the story someone carries with them about it and influences their perceptions and ultimately their actions.

The bottom line is that in your healthcare organization and the thousands around the world that are engaging with or attending to the needs of their customers right now, you are providing an experience. The question is, are you strategically planning for and addressing it? In a consumer driven healthcare world, regardless of national system, policy incentives or other supports or constraints, the ultimate opportunity is to ensure experience is not simply left to chance. Rather it should be part of the very fiber of your organization, representing the kind of encounters you hope to provide and the outcomes you look to achieve. Yes, at its core, experience encompasses all we tackle in healthcare from quality, safety and service interactions to the implications of cost and the influence that outcomes have on public, systemic and personal health decisions.

I also believe as the experience movement coalesces around these core ideas it has the opportunity to stand with conviction, grounded in evidence, to declare that experience drives the very outcomes we look to achieve in healthcare: clinical outcomes, financial results, consumer loyalty and community reputation. In the latest issue of Patient Experience Journal, I offer, "An investment in a strong and positive patient experience is the leading choice you can and should be making in healthcare today. The results of this decision will only lead to even greater and lasting results.”

This then may be our simple, yet significant call to action. That we recognize and act on the reality that experience encompasses all we do in healthcare and drives the outcomes we aspire to. In that light it brings us to reflect on a new era in healthcare. Thanks to insights from Don Berwick in challenging us to consider a third (what he calls the moral) era, I hope to push us further. Beyond just acknowledging the operational considerations he suggests as we look at how healthcare as a system progresses, we too must look at healthcare for all it was intended to and still must strive to accomplish. It is time to place the human experience back at the heart of healthcare. It is time for the experience era.

The experience era calls us to consider 8 fundamental actions:

  • Acknowledge experience is a global movement
  • Recognize experience encompasses all we do
  • Remember in experience all voices matter
  • Focus on value from the perspective of the consumer
  • Ensure transparency for accessibility & understanding
  • Measure & incent what matters
  • Share wildly and steal willingly
  • Reignite our commitment to purpose

If we move forward with purpose and choose to align our efforts with an experience mindset, we not only welcome the experience era; we reignite the heart of healthcare itself. With a focus on those we care for and serve and a commitment to those who provide care and support those efforts every day, we can build the most healthy and vibrant system of care the world has ever seen. It will take all voices to do this, all nations to commit, all systems to realign themselves and all organizations to focus their intention. It will take all of us to make the choice that experience matters and then act. That is the opportunity we now have in front of us…I am ready for our first steps forward together.


Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute

Tags:  aligning efforts  commitment  encounters  experience era  interaction  movement  Patient Experience Conference  purpose  value 

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Comments on this post...

Cynthia Leathers says...
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Dr. Wolf,
I enjoyed this post and couldn't agree more with your contention that we must put the "human" back at the heart of healthcare. When I am facilitating discussions regarding strategies that are useful in determining what the ideal experience might be for any particular patient, I often hear suggestions that center more around "what we want for them" instead of what the patient wants for themselves. This prompts me to remind participants that we are not in the healthcare business.....we are in the "people" business, providing excellent healthcare. This necessitates tailoring our abilities to their individual preferences. While this is sometimes challenging to accomplish with so many competing task obligations, it is not impossible!

I look forward to your future posts on this topic.

Best regards,
Cynthia Leathers RN, MSA
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