Where Does Responsibility for Patient Experience Fall?

An article from HealthLeaders August 2011 edition gives us a detailed look at where patient experience initiatives rank among importance throughout various healthcare organizations. While 55% of respondents ranked patient experience within their top five priorities; the more alarming statistic relates to the 22% reporting “an abundance of higher priorities” and the 11% deeming a “lack of funding or budgeting.”

One variable which fluxuates between organizations is the party or parties responsible for monitoring and improving the patient experience. The article, by Gienna Shaw, states, “For the third year in a row, survey results show few CEO’s (just 14% in 2011) take primary responsibility for the patient experience.” For the most part, the task of managing an organization’s patient experience efforts is passed on to other staff members such as: chief quality officer, chief marketing officer, or chief nursing officer. In many cases, the responsibility is spread out between an array of managers, which can lead to less actually getting accomplished in the long run due to a lack of direct responsibility.

Another observation found by the HealthLeader’s survey was the skewed accountability based upon compensation. CEO’s and high level executive’s salaries were far less dependent upon the organization’s patient satisfaction scores than those of nurses and staff. This can pose a problem or be deemed unreasonable, because those with more senior positions are the one’s deciding upon the amount of patient experience training staff receives. Without proper training, holding one accountable and penalizing their compensation for inadequate patient satisfaction scores appears anything but fair.

In order for an organization to excel in patient satisfaction, ongoing training is a necessity. Without consistent coaching and demonstration, habits and best practices will fail to develop and take hold. Continuously observing employee’s customer service skills and patient interactions will allow those in charge of monitoring the patient experience to have a better sense of control on the outcome of patient satisfaction scores. Failing to recognize the need for persistent attention to employee’s skills will lead to lower satisfaction ratings, decreasing compensation and an overall lack of employee engagement.

Feb 2012
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