When we first developed the definition for patient experience with a group of contributing healthcare leaders, four themes emerged as central to our discussion and ultimately to the definition itself – the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. These themes shaped the fundamentals for action in providing the best in experience and I still see them as central and imperative across healthcare settings today.
Experience efforts are shaped through the interactions of all individuals involved and grounded in the organization’s culture through which they are delivered. It is the actions of all participants in the care experience – caregivers, support teams, patients and family members alike – that ultimately influence the perceptions of experience and create the lasting impact (and I suggest ripple effect) that each experience has. Experience is a partnership with patients, residents and families, not a doing to, and these words reinforce this critical point.
It is the last element of the definition that is also perhaps the most easily accepted: across the continuum of care. As the patient experience movement has flourished, there has been growing recognition that experience stretches well beyond the four walls of any clinical encounter or the physical structures of the acute care setting. In fact, the ideas of experience, in variations of language including patient, resident or person-centeredness, have permeated the wide array of care experiences one can have in healthcare today. This idea may be no better reinforced than the focus on the experience of individuals in long-term care.
The effort to provide a strong and positive experience for individuals in long-term care is not a new concept. This idea has been addressed in the dialogues of great institutions such as the former Picker Institute and now via Planetree and through organizations such as the Pioneer Network, Leading Age and the American Health Care Association (AHCA). Partly driven by policy, such as we have seen sweep the US healthcare system in other segments of the continuum with the CAHPS efforts, and framed by what we know to be the right thing to do, long-term care has long been focused on the elements of resident quality, safety and service and the built environment to ensure the best for those in their care.
There is a growing understanding in all environments, that aside from the right thing to do for those in our care, or even a must do, there is also increasing policy focus and requirements that not only measure action, but also tie financial implications to them. Yes, we must acknowledge the financial implications of this effort as well, including the reality that individuals in the healthcare system at all points on the continuum are now consumers – people carefully select doctors, they make decisions on which hospitals to seek care and they look long and hard at the options in selecting a location for a parent or loved one to reside for long-term care needs.
If we accept choice is a factor now in healthcare, then experience matters. In focusing on the continuum of care, it matters to the patients, residents, people in our care, it matters to their families and it matters to all who deliver care as well. It is for this reason we continue to evolve our work at The Beryl institute to expand the experience conversation to all points on the continuum of care and to acknowledge the opportunities at the moments of care transition as well.
We have worked to engage broader voices in the physician practice setting by exploring how experience is being addressed by physician clinics and groups and our events are expanding to include greater dialogue and content on the important practices taking place in the ambulatory and outpatient settings. With equal focus (and the support of energized and committed members of our community), we are embarking in expanding our efforts to address experience in the long-term care setting as well. In the coming months, through Patient Experience Conference 2015 and beyond, we will work to collaborate with leading thinkers and organizations to reinforce and expand the critical conversation of experience in the long-term care environment. This will include papers, webinars, conference sessions and expanding research into this area of the continuum.
We hope through these efforts and partnerships we can support the critical dialogue of experience at all points on the care continuum. We will strive to continue our growth as a community encouraging and supporting the dialogue among individuals impacting each touch point in the care experience. If we maintain that experience as defined truly crosses the continuum of care, not only is this a critical effort to take on, it is a must do in ensuring that the experience conversation – the critical confluence of quality, safety and service and the fundamental considerations of people, process and place – engages all and includes all voices. We are excited by this next stage of the experience movement and invite and encourage your thoughts, ideas and participation.
Jason. A. Wolf, Ph.D.
The Beryl Institute