Healthcare Experience Blog

What do you have to be to become a CXO?

What kind of background “qualifies” you to become a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) in a hospital or other healthcare organization? Well, it turns out there is no single answer.

Worked in a non-profit? Worked for NASA? Been a nursing or marketing leader? Almost any background can provide the grounding and dare I say “wisdom” to ascend to a senior leadership role around patient experience.

That’s what we found when Jason Wolf (president of The Beryl Institute) and I interviewed 15 different CXOs or equivalents, some working for a single hospital, others working in a large system.

Jeanette Hodge, Executive Director of Patient Experience at Yale-New Haven Hospital, said that her professional life has been “grounded in relationship building.” Her background includes work as a Patient Advocate and she holds a volunteer administration certification.

Chris Holt feels that her background in marketing and branding is a key asset. She holds a dual role at Mercy Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania as the Vice President of Marketing and Chief Experience Officer. She believes and views “patient experience” as a natural extension of the brand.

Even NASA can prepare someone for a patient experience job! Devin Carty (CXO with Cancer Treatment Centers of America) told us that his time at NASA exposed him to rational decision making, while working for Gallup revealed how emotions often govern our decisions and memories. He understands that both are important elements in shaping impressions around one of the most emotional times in a person’s life (when they’re sick or hurt or  receiving care).

If our interviewees had one characteristic in common, it was the idea that in previous positions they have been connected , in some way, with consumers. They have the ability to see and sense the world through a consumer’s eyes. In one case, it wasn’t the professional background but the profound personal experience of being a patient that he credits with his ability to to do his job now. Today, he’s the Vice President of Hospitality & Service Culture with Henry Ford Health System.

Some of the CXOs were recruited from within the organization, but just as often they were brought in from elsewhere, including other industries such as hospitality. Paul Westbrook at Inova Health System represents such a case; he spent many years as an executive with Ritz Carlton. It seems that there is no single path to becoming a CXO; the door is open for those with the passion, sensitivity, and proven leadership skills.

To download our newest white paper , “The Chief Experience Officer: An Emerging & Critical Role,” click here and enter code CXO_CATALYST at checkout.

What is the value in having a CXO?

Recently I assisted Jason Wolf, President of The Beryl Institute, in interviewing 14 patient experience leaders from across the country (plus one from across the pond!). We were interested in hearing about their journey in becoming a patient experience leader, their successes, and the struggles that they face in fulfilling their roles. From those interviews, we produced a new white paper entitled “The Chief Experience Officer—An Emerging and Critical Role.”

The most poignant question we asked was about the value of having a CXO in a hospital or other healthcare organization. Not surprisingly, virtually every person told us that having a dedicated role at the senior level reinforces the importance of providing a great patient experience.  If finances are important, then a CFO is important.  If human resources are important, a chief of human resources is needed.  Ergo, when it comes to patient experience.  If the organization says this is truly important (and strategic), shouldn’t there be a CXO (or equivalent)?

A CXO, working in concert with the CEO and other leaders, becomes the sparkplug in shifting the entire organization toward a “patient-centric culture.” As one of our respondents told us, “my job is to make others feel uncomfortable about how we’re doing things today.” A seat at the executive table allows the CXO to share in key resource and policy decisions, ensuring that the customer actually has a voice in such key deliberations. It’s also a way to coordinate and drive change across departments and functions, from parking to IT.

Having a CXO who helps move the organization away from a traditional “clinical” or “physician-centered” culture toward a “patient-centric culture” has another obvious value. Money. Hospitals stand to gain or lose significant CMS reimbursements based on what patients say about their inpatient experiences. In time, the government and potentially other payers will be tracking and reporting patient survey results that reflect the wider experience a patient has, across the continuum of care.

People are paying for more of their own healthcare expenses, while concurrently the federal government is pushing value-based payment and greater transparency.  With these trends, more and more patients will begin to expect an outstanding experience, and tolerance for things like noise at night, poor discharge instructions, and unwieldy business practices will be publicized and will become competitive disadvantages.

Designating (and resourcing) a Chief Experience Officer may be just what’s needed!

To download a free copy of “The Chief Experience Officer—An Emerging and Critical Role,” click here and enter code CXO_CATALYST at checkout.

What is your community doing to promote healthy living?

Tennessee isn’t alone in the battle with a poor health epidemic. Nationally, we fail at eating correctly and exercising the recommended amount. Any bit of tobacco usage is too much.

In Tennessee, we’re fortunate enough to have The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness (Healthier Tennessee) to lead citizens through the process of improving their lifestyles. In the 2013 Awareness and Engagement Study Among Tennesseans that we conducted for Healthier Tennessee, we found out that only 3% of residents are engaging in behaviors that are considered healthy. This means that only 3% of Tennesseans are eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, exercising five times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time, and refraining from tobacco usage.

To combat residents’ unhealthy lifestyles, Healthier Tennessee launched a campaign that integrates multiple strategies to try and encourage Tennesseans to eat better, start exercising, and quit using tobacco.

“Drastic changes in diet and physical activity are usually overwhelming and hard for people to maintain,” Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness CEO Rick Johnson told me. “But making small, simple changes in your daily routine can, over time, add up to a big health difference. Changing your day a little can eventually change your life a lot.”

One initiative that Healthier Tennessee is using is called “Small Starts.” Their website lists more than 50 small things people can do daily, or weekly, to get into healthier habits. Things like walking around while talking on the phone, swapping out one sugary drink a day for a glass of water, or making a list of things you can do to distract yourself when you get a craving for tobacco are all little steps that will hopefully lead to bigger changes. In addition to Small Starts, Healthier Tennessee produced a television commercial

that has run statewide to promote the idea of starting now—not waiting!

The initiative is reaching out to Tennesseans in places where they live, work, worship, and learn – the places where effective tools and support can lead to positive behavior change. Strategies and tools that can be owned and implemented by individuals, workplaces, faith-based organizations and schools are being made available at no charge through the healthierTN.com website.

I encourage you to visit the Healthier Tennessee website to learn more about the cause and how all of us can take discrete steps to lead healthier lives. To download the white paper detailing more results of the study, click here.

Our personal brick walls

No doubt there are obstacles to eating well, exercising regularly and, for tobacco users, escaping its grip. As the 42nd unhealthiest state in the nation, Tennesseans are clearly not immune to these obstacles.  In our newly-released 2013 Awareness & Engagement Study Among Tennesseans, we heard people give their reasons, in their own words. In essence, they cited their personal “brick walls.”

Time was the most widely cited obstacle for not exercising regularly or enough. Residents consider themselves too busy with work, children, school and/or extracurricular responsibilities to put in the recommended 30 minutes a day of vigorous physical activity, five days a week.

A surprising number of respondents, 12%, were brutally honest with us and said that they are “lazy” and lack the motivation to get active.  We heard other reasons, as well, including the cost/location of a gym and not wanting to exercise outdoors in weather that’s either too hot or too cold.

When we asked about the barriers to eating better, respondents reported that the cost of a healthy diet was just too high. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, particularly organic ones, are more expensive than canned or frozen options. They also can take more time to prepare.  As we all recognize, more time and effort is required to go to the grocery, buy healthy food and then cook it than it is to just cruise through a drive-thru. Other citizens simply said that they don’t have the motivation or desire to eat better.

Whether people’s individual brick walls are time, motivation, or cost, they inhibit the chances of living a healthier and often longer life.  One where the chances of getting heart disease, diabetes, and depression are reduced, according to sources I read.

What do you think? Is improving your overall well-being worth getting off the couch and going for a 30-minute walk? Is it worth spending a couple extra dollars on fresh salad ingredients, and putting the cookies back on the shelf? Is it worth staying up 10 minutes later at night to make your lunch for the next day so you don’t end up eating a fast food lunch?

Obstacles are what we’re up against.  We all have them. As the recent group of Olympians showed us over and over, obstacles can be overcome.  Let’s take a cue from them. Start small, stay consistently focused, and overcome the obstacles that hold us back.

To download a free copy of the 2013 Awareness and Engagement Study among Tennesseans, click here.

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