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Why the patient experience movement will continue

April 18th, 2013

by Jason A. Wolf

When I first heard the term patient experience used, it was bemoaned by some as the latest management fad and others as a marketing ploy created to attract healthcare clients for new products. While these reactions may have been deserved based on other healthcare precedents, these reactions did not represent what was truly taking place.

What started with words and an idea grounded in a rich history of advocacy and service, has taken on a true life of its own. Now patient experience is nothing short of a powerful and growing movement.

In my very first Hospital Impact blog post, I stressed that "while patient experience may be seen by some as a fad based on recent policy (i.e., a must do for now until the environment shifts), it is gaining greater traction as leaders now have the air cover needed to address patient experience as the right thing to do in a way they may not have been able to before."

From those words in fall of 2011, I have seen unparalleled energy focused on the improvement of patient experience in all corners of the globe.

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One way this has manifested itself is in "I am the Patient Experience" videos so many healthcare organizations are creating. One chief nursing officer shared with me that creating her organization's video reinforced, more than any training, mandate or memo, the role everyone plays and the accountability they have in providing the best in experience.

Perhaps as equally indicative has been the growth of the patient experience community itself. From the more than15,000 members and guests of The Beryl Institute, to the efforts supported by governments, providers, and vendor organizations around the world, the conversation continues to expand. And this has expanded the range of voices that are part of the conversation.

Healthcare leadership, patient experience leadership, frontline staff, patients and families, physicians, community members, and researchers have all come together to send a powerfully consistent message. The key lessons I hear across these groups have been profoundly aligned:

  • Healthcare leaders stressed patient experience is a living, breathing and dynamic process, not an initiative one can ever say is complete.
  • Caregivers and staff reinforced patient experience is about consistent and ongoing action. It must become part of who we are as healthcare organizations
  • Students, our future leaders, suggested we need to put our efforts where our priorities are, noting while patient experience is important, the learning around it needs to be increased.
  • Patients and families requested that we acknowledge they are not subjects, but rather partners in the healthcare experience. We need to invite their voice and we need to listen.

In the end the message is strong and true: patient experience is a powerful and growing movement.

As this blog publishes, I am with more than 500 healthcare leaders at Patient Experience Conference 2013, engaging in a true community dialogue on how we can ensure this movement continues to flourish.

It comes down to basic principles we all need to remember:

  • No one--be it a provider, organization, vendor, media outlet--owns the patient experience. Its strength comes from the collective voices of all engaged.
  • It is through collaboration, i.e., the sharing of ideas openly, that we can most positively impact the experience of patients and families globally.
  • While improving the patient experience may be more common sense than science, we must never stop looking for ways to innovate, find new approaches and engage all voices along the way.
  • We are ALL the patient experience and must act as such. We all have profound contributions to make and it will take that type of commitment to have the greatest of impact.

Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D., is president of The Beryl Institute, where he specializes in organizational effectiveness, service excellence and high performance in healthcare. Follow Jason @jasonawolf and The Beryl Institute @berylinstitute on Twitter.

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