Hindsight is 20/20: What CXOs wish they had known
In a recent white paper that I co-authored with Jason Wolf, president of The Beryl Institute, we asked patient experience leaders to reflect on what they wish they had known before assuming their current positions. We thought it might prove valuable to those who may be hiring a Chief Experience Office (or equivalent) and to those who may be considering accepting such a position.
Several patient experience leaders told us that it’s critically important that a new CXO determine to what extent a “culture of experience does or does not exist” in the organization. It’s easy to give lip service to “putting patients first,” but not so easy to actually do so, day in and day out, throughout an organization. Take some time to talk casually with a cross-section of people who hold a variety of jobs. Ask them cultural questions like “what’s it like to work in this place?” or “how often do the nurses complain about the doctors?” or “whose responsibility is it to guide visitors?” The answers will provide clues as to the real operating culture of the place, not just what the mission statement says. Also interviewing various department and functional heads, such as the person handling clinical quality, the person responsible for HR, etc. will provide an early indication of the likely degree of collaboration that may exist to advance the PX improvement agenda. Going beyond a formal interview with the CEO or COO allows the newly-appointed CXO to more accurately determine how far the organization has yet to travel to foster a patient-centric culture.
Another theme that emerged was patience. Patience is a virtue, and the CXO role requires a lot of it, we were told. Several of the interviewees spoke to the fact that they wish they had changed their mindset before going into their current job. They came from environments where there were short-term goals, actions, and results. Now they must mentally prepare themselves for longer-term, more subtle changes, and the results may not be evident for months or even years. Patient experience improvement isn’t so much a single goal as it is “an improvement journey” with performance indicators, like HCAHPS and employee engagement scores. The CXOs reinforced the idea that it takes not only a herculean amount of effort, but gobs of time to create meaningful change, especially behavioral change, throughout a hospital or an entire health system. Patience is a neccessity.
By people’s comments, it is also clear that there is a delicate balancing act between instituting certain core values and practices every day and every time versus allowing/encouraging flexibility in how key standards are implemented. “One size fits all” as a dictum usually generates tremendous resistance. Health systems are made up of many hospitals that are all different sizes, require different resources, and have their own specific needs. While tactics that work in one unit or one hospital may seem like the obvious choice for others, it’s often difficult to “impose” them from the top. Involving staff through guided, interactive discussions of how patient experience is delivered today and how this can be improved, within the context of asking them to be mindful of what called them into healthcare in the first place, can create deeper, more meaningful cultural change. People are then empowered and encouraged to act on the values of the organization, rather than merely repeat a required script.
While the “end game” is cultural change, the bigger picture is moving away from a strictly physician-focused or clinically-focused model to a truly patient/family-focused one. As such, measurement along the journey is essential. Several of the patient experience leaders told us that their previous background in using numbers and statistics was extremely helpful in their current jobs. From the get-go, a new CXO should be prepared to understand, communicate, and utilize HCAHPS scores in their experience efforts. “Data” and “stats” along with “stories” and “quotes” are needed to positively influence the behavior of physicians, department heads, and all other staff. People want to know how they are performing, and how their performance stacks up, over time, and against benchmarks, including internal goals. So the CXO must learn to use the numbers to his/her advantage.
To learn more about the emerging role of the CXO in healthcare and what our respondents had to say, click here to download this ground-breaking new white paper. Be sure to enter code CXO_CATALYST at checkout to get this at no charge.