The health care industry is constantly changing. Advances on the clinical side, changes with third-party payers like insurance and government regulations are just a few of the ever-changing components of today’s health care environment.

Today, the focus on quality and patient experience has never been more important.

Patients are consumers, and many of them have choices on where they receive care. As a result, the competitive landscape for providers, hospitals and health care systems has evolved over the last 20 years. Patients now have access to information about the reputation and overall ranking of hospitals and providers. In fact, the U.S. News & World Report Top Hospitals is an annual resource that offers insight into the top facilities ranked by competencies in procedures and specializations.

Maintaining quality, safety and how patients feel about their experience is of tremendous value to providers and health care organizations.

Transitioning to a Focus on Patient Experience

The idea of patient experience is not a recent concept. However, the focus on improving the experience has become much more dedicated.

According to The Beryl Institute, the leading global patient experience organization, patient experience is defined as: “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care. We believe human experience is grounded in the experiences of patients and families, members of the health care workforce and the communities they serve.”

Patient satisfaction and experience are continually measured by organizations. Successful health care organizations have leaders who understand the importance of having this feedback and its utilization.

In the book, “Prescription for Excellence,” the framework used in creating a world-class patient experience at UCLA Health is discussed. This framework involves elements from how talent is recruited and selected to crafting a vision and then integrating that vision across a large and complex medical enterprise.

Remember, the patient experience is about the sum of all interactions.

Having clear communications, both internally and externally, is vital in creating a successful patient experience model. Health care leaders need to understand the connection between patient experience and an organization’s bottom line, which has become particularly vital due to the industry shift toward value-based care as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Cleveland Clinic: Communicating with Care and Empathy

One such organization developing a successful relationship-centered strategy for patient experience is the Cleveland Clinic. Consistently ranked as one of the top hospitals in the nation, Cleveland Clinic understands the value of communicating care and empathy.

In health care, communication skills are key, and Cleveland Clinic is focused on making them even better. There is a direct path in improving the patient experience when internal communication skills are enhanced. This path includes holding everyone accountable for better customer service behaviors.

According to The Advisory Board, a leading health care research organization, “health systems that have incorporated these two elements—the clinical and the patient perspective—into their rounds have improved their patient experience and their provider engagement, as clinicians feel more fulfilled and satisfied in their work. Incorporating both elements also yields higher patient engagement in care planning, resulting in better outcomes, as we are engaging the person, not just ‘the patient.’”

Each institution has a unique set of steps that work within its organization. Here are a few steps to improving communications, which leads to a better patient experience:

  • Develop a culture that supports open collaboration between all members of the care team, which includes both clinical and non-clinical staff.
  • Don’t use a hierarchy. Everyone on the team is equal. For example, if a nurse’s aide notices that a surgeon does not wash his hands when coming into a patient room, they can call attention to this with the surgeon.
  • Use data and metrics to monitor success. This includes frequent surveys after discharging the patient.
  • Create dedicated training programs on topics like communication skills, empathy and active listening.

Enhancing Patient Experience Through the Classroom

As part of the faculty who teaches in our Master of Business Administration with a concentration in health care program, one of my favorite responsibilities is instructing students about the role patient experience has in the overall success of an organization. Our classes cover a wide scope of topics that are interesting and essential for those in the field or desiring to make a move into health care administrative positions.

Learn More about an MBA in Health Care