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The State of Patient Experience 2019: Reflections and Four Considerations for Action

Posted By Jason A. Wolf, PhD, CPXP, Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nine years ago this month in the Patient Experience Blog from The Beryl Institute, we introduced the definition of patient experience.

The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture,
that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.

Those words remain true to this day and essential to all we have done to address the healthcare experience. As I offered then, “We will use this definition as a guide for how we build resources for our members. It will also serve as the standard for how we support and advocate for the creation of a positive patient experience across all healthcare organizations.”

This commitment and all it represents has guided the moments, months and years since that time; a time filled by the contributions, sharing and collaboration of thousands of people around the world, from across the healthcare spectrum and on both sides of the care experience, who have come together to elevate the human experience in healthcare.

This generosity of spirit has served as the fuel for the effort to do just what we aspired to do in 2010: to support and advocate for a positive experience for all across healthcare. It also serves now as the foundation for the continued exploration of what drives excellence in this work. The pursuit of exceptional experiences for all in healthcare – that is, ensuring safe, quality, reliable, service-oriented, cost effective, accessible, equitable and ultimately human care – now has taken its place at the strategic heart of healthcare itself.

This was reinforced in our latest exploration of the state of patient experience. In the fifth iteration of this study, The State of Patient Experience 2019: A Call to Action for the Future of Human Experience, we have seen trends revealed and opportunities elevated. While this piece is not intended to recap every finding (you can read about those in the full research report) it is important that we come back to where we started nine years ago in introducing the definition of patient experience itself.

Much of what we see today is rooted in the very ideas shared in September 2010 when we offered that a critical intention of the definition of patient experience was, “that we first must acknowledge that there is some "thing” called the patient experience we need to both recognize and address.” This “thing” as we knew then is even more essential to what healthcare is ultimately about. Experience is not a small part of healthcare, but rather it is woven into the very fabric of what healthcare is and continues to become. The results found in this year’s study underline that point.

So, in our intention to move to a future of healthcare grounded in experience, we are called to recognize and act on a few fundamentals. Many have been central to our focus at the Institute from the very beginning. Some we have discovered from our community as we have worked together to improve the patient experience and elevate the human experience in healthcare. With this I offer four essential considerations for action:

  1. Patient experience is not something healthcare does, it is who healthcare is. It is when experience is simply seen as a thing to do, a box to check in a complex healthcare world, that its possibility is immediately weakened. Experience happens regardless of plan or process. It is who a healthcare organization is and how it is perceived by others. It is incumbent on all in healthcare to build organizations that realize that every action, every encounter and every interaction create an experience for all involved.
  2. Patient experience is driven by all we do and, therefore, every effort must be approached with an integrated view of how it will impact the overall experience we provide. This is the essence of the experience framework itself. It is in understanding that all the elements it includes, the eight strategic lenses, while often operated distinctly in healthcare, must be seen as one integrated set of actions in ensuring an aligned and effective effort to drive experience and the outcomes we look to achieve.
  3. To succeed externally, we must focus internally. The idea that culture matters or that how we treat those who work in an organization will impact the experience of those it serves is not new.  The state of patient experience data from 2015 to today reveal a rapidly growing awareness of communication and employee engagement as the primary path to experience success. If organizations are not willing to work on themselves first, they will never ultimately achieve the experience success they seek.
  4. A commitment to experience will not (and must not) ever end. One of the greatest issues raised by healthcare organizations is that of sustaining success with their experience efforts. This raises an opportunity for all to consider. Experience excellence is not simply something to be achieved. That idea presents a false consideration as it suggests experience has been accomplished and your efforts done. But the need to ensure the best in experience never truly ends. It is about a relentless pursuit of excellence, about consistent delivery of intent and an unwavering commitment to the human experience at the heart of healthcare that will lead to the outcomes we all aspire to achieve.

These considerations offer a clear and solid footing on which organizations can build as they strive to ensure the best experience for all they engage. I have long shared that if we do not set the proper foundation for our organizations in healthcare, all the strategies, processes and tactics live on unstable ground at best, and therefore outcomes – and more so sustained outcomes – are at risk from the start. Yet, what the State of Patient Experience 2019 has revealed and has reinforced in what we found in both our exploration of Consumer Perspectives on Patient Experience and Influence Factors on Patient Experience last year, is that healthcare is moving toward a more comprehensive view of what experience is and recognizing the breadth of efforts aligned to realizing experience success.

From those insights and the reflections of our participants in this year’s study, it is safe to say patient experience is perhaps at the most exciting moment in its arc of life. From its elevation as a concept in definition nine years ago, through the shared journey of so many in the time since, experience as a concept and a movement finds itself at the start of a new era. The healthcare experience will now be driven by what consumers of care seek and will be grounded in an accessibility of knowledge by those consumers that is already shifting the fundamental power dynamics. If we only continue to address experience as something that happens when care is delivered, we too will fall short of what is needed and may very well miss where the market is going. This is where the work of the experience community must continue to evolve.

In understanding what healthcare encounters will look like now and into the future, the ideas and elements that influence those experiences will be vital to consumer choice, system viability and the health of our communities and populations served. Yet in the end so much of it will come back down to the simple ideas where we started nine years ago, that experience is truly the sum of all interactions that occur in healthcare, and those interactions are shaped by the culture of the organizations that offer them.

The future of patient experience is inspiring. The elevation of the human experience unquestionable. Now we must focus on nourishing our strong roots and feeding our big visions. That is what those who seek care every day will be looking for and those truly committed to what healthcare can be will expect to deliver every day.


Click here to download your complimentary copy of The State of Patient Experience 2019: A Call to Action for the Future of Human Experience.

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