4 fundamentals you should know about the patient experience today

Brett Brende | Mar 3, 2020 Brett Brende 03/03/20

The healthcare industry overwhelmingly recognizes the patient experience (PX) as a critical initiative—4 out of 5 organizations cite it as a top priority in the next three years. But that near unanimity doesn’t mean all healthcare professionals are on the same page about what the patient experience is or who owns it.

This systemic confusion is one healthcare organizations (HCOs) must clear up. They can no longer rely solely on CAHPS to satisfy patients’ growing demands for top-notch care. To meet these evolved expectations, organizations must have well-established PX efforts that provide a holistic approach to driving improvements.

SMG was commissioned by The Beryl Institute—a global community dedicated to improving the patient experience—to field an online survey to more than 1,500 health professionals about the state of patient experience.

With insights gleaned from the study, we created a list to help kickstart a successful PX strategy. Here are 4 facts every HCO should know:


1. All areas of the organization affect the patient experience

Organizations with a one-dimensional approach are missing crucial elements of the patient experience. Yes, there are certain aspects that carry more weight in the eyes of the patient, but putting all your efforts into one siloed area is a dangerous game.

The patient experience isn’t about one specific interaction. It’s a holistic encounter that encompasses everything from staff engagement and clinical excellence to hospitality and tech innovation. Make sure you include comprehensive measurement efforts that factor in all parts of your business.

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2. The patient experience isn’t measured—or defined—consistently across healthcare

How one organization refers to PX measurement may be wildly different from another organization. Many are required to use CAHPS or HCAHPS and stop there—but those that do are selling themselves short of actionable data that can truly impact the patient experience.

Others fulfill their CAHPS requirement and layer additional PX measurements on top of it to round out their PX efforts—this includes surveying and more comprehensive programs. These organizations will glean more actionable insights and be much more successful at making system-wide improvements.

To help you distinguish the different types of PX measurement in play in the healthcare industry, here are some definitions:

  • CAHPS/HCAHPS: Regulated survey required by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to assess overall quality measures at hospitals; results influence CMS payments to hospitals
  • PX program: An end-to-end, real-time solution for listening to, interpreting, acting on, and maximizing patient experience feedback; other industries—and even some segments of healthcare—may refer to this as a VoC (voice of customer) program
  • PX survey: Measurement tool for assessing the patient experience; one small piece of an organization’s PX efforts


3. There are key differences in how HCOs are measuring the patient experience

Almost a quarter of organizations are relying solely on CAHPS to guide their PX efforts. To evolve, they need to define what they want to achieve and begin exploring a more comprehensive approach to PX.

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The good news is full-scale PX efforts are gaining traction. One in 3 organizations now say their efforts are well established—which is a solid increase from 2017, when it was only 1 in 4.

What defines a “well-established” program? Let’s take a look at the varying levels of effort:

  • Not yet started: PX efforts remain low priority, if they exist at all
  • Just beginning: In the early planning and launch phases of PX efforts; still defining goals and KPIs
  • Established/making some progress: Though PX efforts may not yet be factored into every decision, leadership understands its importance and most of the organization is bought in
  • Well established: Listening to patient feedback across channels, integrating PX data with other important datasets, and making important decisions based on PX insights

Though there’s been an uptick in well-established efforts, it’s important to note that the majority of organizations are still in the early stages and require focused attention. This means you must take time to define goals and the tactics you use to get there.


4. Chief experience officers (CXOs) are the primary owners of the patient experience

As Gartner reports, there has been significant growth in the presence of CXOs in many organizations over the last few years. This is very evident in the healthcare industry, where nearly 40% of CXOs are being held accountable for driving PX efforts.

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But nearly a third of HCOs indicate the patient experience doesn’t have defined ownership in their business. And while we’ve said your PX efforts must be prioritized and executed by every member of your team, it’s just as important to designate one person to spearhead the program. Without a PX leader—ideally someone in a full-time, c-level position—it will be impossible to embed the type of systemic change that will drive meaningful improvements. At best, your PX efforts will simply be good intentions.


Make PX a priority + expect healthier outcomes, system-wide

While the market forces surrounding HCOs are complex and evolving, one thing is certain: organizations establishing and incorporating strong PX efforts into their already existing CAHPS programs are on the right track to make significant improvements.

In this blog, we’ve covered some current patient experience trends to help you get started with your own PX strategy. To learn the 5 characteristics of successful PX efforts + 8 positive effects you should expect, download the full report.

3 patient experience questions answered: What 1,500 healthcare professionals revealed about shifting the cultural mindset + evolving to meet patient needs

Brett Brende | VP, Customer Engagement—Healthcare

Customer Experience Update