The Patient Experience and Health Care Transformation: A Bonded Pair

Added on Aug 2, 2018

By Diana Mahoney, Editorial Director

“Do measures to improve the patient experience increase quality of care, hospital efficiency and patient loyalty?”

Even before the authors of a recent literature review reported by The Economist Intelligence Unit asked this question, leaders of high-performing organizations knew the answer. They understood, from their own experiences, that health care quality, health system efficiency, and the likelihood that patients will continue seeking care from their organization are integral to—not independent from—the patient experience.

Cross-domain analyses reported by Press Ganey in the 2017 Strategic Insights Report illustrate this concept. The research demonstrates interdependent relationships between and among the patient experience and the safety and quality of care, workforce engagement, and financial outcomes. Improvement in any one of these domains can positively influence the others and support progress on the improvement journey, while a defect or deficiency in any one of the areas can compromise the others, according to the analyses.

Taken together, the literature review and the cross-domain analytics provide important validation to health care executives who have begun to explore ways to optimize the interdependencies to improve overall performance. They also support the call to action issued in the 2018 Strategic Insights Report, which is to converge leaders across each of these key domains to break down the barriers to true transformation.

In practice, this means ensuring that leaders across the organization are driving toward the same goal of advancing the experience of care for patients, according to Dr. James Merlino, chief transformation officer for Press Ganey. “Progress toward this goal requires strategic alignment of safety, quality, experience, engagement and business operations,” he said.

For many organizations, this approach represents a significant disruption to the status quo. “It requires taking a systems view of operations, identifying legacy processes and practices that impede communication and collaboration across operational units and replacing them with those that support full transparency and joint accountability,” Dr. Merlino explained.

This approach is “challenging but absolutely necessary,” according to Marc Harrison, MD president and CEO of Utah-based Intermountain Health Care, which has embarked on the journey to transformation.

“Even though we are a model health system—clinically strong, economically strong, and culturally strong—we made the decision to transform the organization from the inside out to get ready for the changes the future will bring,” Dr. Harrison said in his keynote address during the Press Ganey Workforce Executive Leadership Summit in June. “We’ve reorganized our operations to be fully aligned with what is most important: helping people live the healthiest lives possible.”

In a very meaningful way, this strategy reflects an understanding that health care transformation cannot be achieved by addressing safety, quality, experience and engagement as independent entities. “The strategies for each have to be ​coordinated,” according to Dr. Merlino. “When you execute on these things together, leveraging a culture of engaged and well-developed health care leaders and managers, you can deliver higher performance on safety, quality and experience.”