'Humanizing' patient experience: increasing the demand for CXOs

'We must identify technologies and design processes that hardwire humanity at every point of care'
By Jessica Davis
10:40 AM
Doctor with family

Vocera Communications has released the findings of its first Humanizing Efficiency in Healthcare study, which surveyed more than 100 senior level healthcare executives. The results are eye-opening.

More than ever, hospitals are seeing a growing need to improve population health by putting a face to data, incorporating measures to engage and support team members in humanizing their work.

However, findings revealed many hospitals and health systems still struggle to align quality, safety and experience strategies during the transition.

"As more organizations implement Lean Six Sigma and high reliability programs, we aim to define the ideal intersection between efficiency efforts and solutions that restore empathy, respect and human connections to healthcare," said Elizabeth Boehm, director of the Experience Innovation Network, in a press statement.

"It takes a concerted and systematic effort to drive alignment across these historically siloed disciplines," she said.

Humanized active daily management takes a daily routine effort by all staff members, such as data connected to the human story, appreciative coaching and a human-centered integration.

By utilizing this approach it "enables us to hear their voices, fears, and concerns," said Chris Pratt, the senior director of Performance Improvement at El Camino Hospital, in a statement.

"We've discovered more than 60 improvement opportunities, reduced patient complaints by 50 percent and raised patient satisfaction by 25 points," he added.

While the majority of institutions have tracking and management systems in place for complaints and other grievances, humanizing data is about "proactively soliciting input from patients and families' and 'building systematic processes to embed voice into processes and operations," the report suggests.

Nearly half of respondents define value as patient-oriented satisfaction, but patient presence is clearly lacking from key areas of the discovery process. Only 6 percent of respondents reported that patients always or usually were involved during the gathering and discovery process.

In fact, the report shows that humanizing data is an 'emerging' skillset and one that almost half of respondents struggle to consistently utilize. Additionally, more than half aren't creating environments to support the need for change.

Increasing the presence of the executives within the practice is a good start, but it can't be the only method used. Coaching and engagement should be at the forefront of sustainability.

"To be successful, organizations can no longer solely focus on stripping out waste and reducing cost as a growing body of evidence points to patient, family and staff experience as key drivers for transforming healthcare," said Bridget Duffy, MD, chief medical officer of Vocera.

"We must identify technologies and design processes that hardwire humanity at every point of care," she continued.

When asked to describe their top three measurable goals for improvement work, 59 percent of study participants cited efficiency goals, 55 percent cited quality-related goals, and 55 percent listed patient experience goals.

However, personnel headcounts show a clear skew to quality and safety, with organizations staffing an average of three times as many quality and safety professionals as those dedicated to patient experience improvement.

While 46 percent of participants point to a lack of stakeholder engagement as a top reason improvement initiatives stall or fail, the survey shows that most organizations are not actively engaging patients and families in experience and process improvement efforts.

"You have to be rigorous in your prioritization. You have to be able to say no and have senior leaders back that up. Ultimately, it's controlled by the C-suite," said Marty Scott, MD, Senior VP, CQO of Meridian Health.

"It's the same skills as on a high reliability team – trust and transparency. I have to live what I teach. To keep my team healthy, I have a preoccupation with failure and sensitivity to operations," he continued.

Many respondents also admit to under-investing in technology needs when it comes to efficiency issues. Just 47 percent of organizations surveyed have or will be implementing tools to improve transparency.

While the increase of leadership skills will improve these numbers in 2016, the management of workflow and communication within an organization needs work.

Humanizing Efficiency in Healthcare was conducted by Vocera's Experience Innovation Network: a network of chief experience officers and physician leaders; founded by Bridget Duffy, MD, the first healthcare CXO in the nation.