The ripple effects of the patient experience
Today, most C-suite and senior finance leaders can quantify how much payment is at risk based on their HCAHPS survey scores. Yet it’s a mistake for leaders to view the patient experience purely in that context, Wolf says.
“We have to look at the broader ripple effects of the experience we create in our organization for the true impact of our efforts and investment,” he says. Although The Beryl Institute study found that consumers recall positive experiences over negative experiences, patients also said they share their experience with others regardless. And because consumers say the recommendations they receive from families and friends are the most important factor in their decision making, how patients experience their care should be top of mind for C-suite leaders.
Wolf issues this warning to leaders: If you fail to invest in the patient experience, you may lose potential customers to other organizations that can deliver what patients want, expect and deserve.
The evolving role of chief experience officer
In response to the rising tide of consumerism, about 65% to 70% of healthcare organizations have designated a senior leader who is responsible for the patient experience, Wolf says. Not all have the title of chief experience officer (CXO). Instead, they may have titles such as system director of experience or vice president of culture and experience.
Reporting structures also differ widely. Some patient experience leaders are considered part of the C-suite and report to the CEO, while others may be part of the quality department or report to the CNO or COO. Additionally, only about a third of these leaders are 100% focused on the patient experience.
Regardless of title, patient experience leaders can play valuable roles. They can help ensure that other C-suite leaders consider the patient experience as part of their organization’s growth strategy, capital investments, new construction, technology and staffing practices, Wolf says.
“Having a voice continually present or directly connected to the C-suite is vital to ensure this conversation isn’t just about tactics or achieving survey scores,” he says. “It is about having a fundamental strategy that integrates people and processes behind how you provide care, how you market and brand your organization, how you build your access and revenue cycle processes, and how you ensure excellence in care.”
How one hospital creates accountability for the patient experience
Jerry Mansfield, PhD, RN, is the first dual executive chief nursing officer and chief patient experience officer at MUSC Health, the clinical enterprise of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). The health system’s hospital, MUSC Medical Center, has earned a four-star rating for the patient experience, according to the Hospital Compare website.
As part of his role, Mansfield meets regularly with his C-suite colleagues, including the CFO, to discuss how the patient experience affects growth, patient and family retention in the system, and repeat business — all of which can influence market share.
“If patients don’t have a great experience and they won’t recommend us to family and friends, we won’t see the volumes that we need in both our inpatient and outpatient settings,” he says. “We also have payers that are offering incentives if we outperform our peers in the patient experience. Last year, we left a significant amount of money from our major payer because we were just shy of the 85th percentile in patient experience scores.”
Across MUSC Health, leaders now accept the patient experience as a key performance metric, in part because the C-suite has made it a priority. “If the C-suite is not aligned in that perspective, it can create a struggle because people can deflect their level of accountability on impacting the patient experience,” says Mansfield (pictured).