Healthcare technology: A competitive advantage in improving the patient experience

With Meaningful Use requirements, connecting to Health Information Exchanges, coordinating data flow in Accountable Care Organizations, updating devices to ICD-10 codes and general interoperability projects, there is a tremendous amount of work going on in Health IT. With very significant deadlines to accomplish these vital initiatives, it would be easy for IT managers to develop tunnel vision and become project managers, checking off one task and moving on to the next.

Each of these projects to modernize the health system has tremendous potential to improve patient care, which, in turn, will likely improve patients’ perceptions of the care they receive because the care will be higher quality and better coordinated among providers. Patients, in turn, will be (everyone hopes) happier “customers.”

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Jason Wolf and the interesting work he does as executive director of The Beryl Institute, which will host its annual Patient Experience Conference April 25-27 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Jason is a passionate advocate for improving the “patient experience” in healthcare, and he travels the country visiting different hospitals to see successful initiatives firsthand, and shares his findings with the Institute’s member organizations.

With so much of healthcare’s focus on changes on the IT front, I thought it would be good to ask Jason what he thinks about the technology changes and how they influence the patient experience.

Q. What exactly do hospitals mean when they talk about the “patient experience?”

Wolf: At The Beryl Institute, our commitment is to be the global community of practice and the premier thought leader on improving the patient experience. In beginning this journey we discovered that many were focused on two critical healthcare actions – patient centeredness and service excellence.

The reality of these two paths is that they have both made positive contributions to the care setting, but they only represented segments of the larger perspective and effort needed to drive an unparalleled experience for patients and their families. Patient experience encompasses the best of these actions, the important nature of quality and patient safety, and the recognition that experience starts well before a clinical encounter and continues well after the patient leaves the care setting.

To create a more standard perspective on this key component of healthcare success, we brought together healthcare leaders from across the U.S. to contribute to framing a definition for the patient experience. The result, a definition the Institute suggests healthcare organizations either adopt or adapt:

“We define the patient experience as the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”