Who Owns Transparency?

Added on Jul 20, 2015

transparency_in_healthcareIn this era of rising health care consumerism, transparency is often approached as a marketing initiative designed to satisfy patients’ increasing desire to curate their own health care experience and to manage an organization’s online reputation. But positioning transparency strictly as a marketing effort obscures the essential clinical and operational contributions needed to build a successful program. 

“The goal of transparency is to collect and report complete, objective data in order to empower patients and improve outcomes, no one person or department can own the effort,” according to Press Ganey Chief Marketing Office Patricia Cmielewski. “To be successful, a transparency initiative absolutely must involve a cultural commitment across the organization.” 

This requires bringing representatives of all internal stakeholders to the planning table: clinical, patient experience, and marketing leadership along with IT, legal, and quality contributors. “By building a steering committee that represents cross-department, cross cultural input, the perspectives of all stakeholders will be reflected in the program design. This will increase the likelihood that the initiative will be embraced across the organization from the outset,” said Press Ganey Chief Client Experience Officer Patty Riskind. 

The success of transparency in health care depends in large part on an organization’s ability to instill a sense of ownership of the effort across the enterprise, according to Dr. Thomas Lee, Press Ganey Chief Medical Officer. “There has to be a sense of shared purpose among all of the stakeholders,” he said.
Clinician leadership can be instrumental in this regard. By educating physicians about the opportunities for growth and improvement, they can foster buy in from clinical staff. For their part, patient experience leaders can ensure complete physician data collection, offer training before going live and provide coaching opportunities for performance management. And marketing has the responsibility of aligning the organization from the inside out, protecting the brand by ensuring internal and external reporting that accurately reflects the patient experience.
Assigning collective responsibility for transparency is a critical first step in establishing a cultural climate that can support and sustain it over the long term. Other must-haves to ensure transparency success include: 

  • A commitment to the integrity of the data being reported. “Don’t fool with the data,” Riskind stressed. “Some organizations might be tempted to filter results and slice and dice negative scores in order to make star ratings look higher than they really are. The stakes for doing so are high: patient and community trust and brand reputation.” 
  • Rigorously collecting data from as many patients as possible to fuel reliable, robust and scientifically valid reviews and analyzing the data with the best available tools and benchmarks to identify improvement opportunities. 
  • Using consistent, standardized, transparent methods for calculating star ratings. 
  • Establishing a process for first delivering internal transparency to foster buy-in and understanding among clinicians before rolling out the external program. 
  • Creating a consistent, standardized process for comment review and reporting, to filter out potentially libelous or offensive comments, as well as those with identifiable personal health information. 
  • Linking the transparency strategy to an ongoing path for improvement—including an action plan for addressing deficits in the organization—in order to continually raise the bar on the value of the care being delivered. 

“Transparency can be seeded in patient experience, clinical operations or marketing, but the strategy belongs to the entire organization. The effort should begin by recognizing the interdependencies of the various stakeholders,” Cmielewski said. “The value of transparency is realized when it reflects coordination across clinical, operational and marketing initiatives.”