This word cloud depicts the input of those who responded to our survey.

By Kristin Baird, MHA, BSN, RN, President, CEO – Baird Group

I recently had the opportunity to conduct some primary research around a topic that I hear raised frequently by patient experience professionals (PXPs) I interact with—their relationships with the CEOs, and other C-suite leaders in their organizations. While exhibiting at Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Conference 2017, we had the opportunity to get feedback from visitors to our booth in Denver to three questions related to the PXP role and relationship with the C-suite. We then asked the same questions of registrants for a webinar we recently presented: What Every CEO Needs to Know About Leading the PX.

Our questions were:

  • What do you wish your CEO knew about leading the patient experience?
  • What do you wish he or she would do differently?
  • How could he or she be more supportive of you?

I then also interviewed some C-suite members to gain perspectives from their vantage point. What we learned points to a communication chasm that often exists between PXPs and CEOs.

What do PXPs want? They want, most of all, for CEOs to recognize that they own the patient experience. Not the doctors, not the nurses—and certainly not the PXPs. CEOs, say the PXPs who shared their insights with me, want their CEOs to communicate about the importance of the patient experience daily, to model the behaviors that they want to see in others and to hold everyone accountable. They noted that the patient experience is not a “project” but a continuous journey—a journey that requires resources that they often feel they don’t have. They made comments like:

  • “You are more powerful if you come on rounds, not send an email.”
  • “The patient experience isn’t fluff!”
  • “Be a role model. If you don’t model it, no one else will do it.”

The number one answer to the question of what they wished their CEOs would do differently was be more visible by rounding on patients! And, they also their CEOs to get the rest of the leadership team on board—to make the patient experience a top priority in the organization, and to commit resources to the patient experience.

What do CEOs want? They want action! In our interviews, we heard many comments like: “This shouldn’t be this hard.” They’re often impatient with what they perceive as slow movement and slow progress. They say things like:

  • “This has been delegated to the PX leader/department.”
  • “I’ve said it’s a priority. It’s in our strategic goals.”
  • “Why is this so hard?”

Bottom line—they’re looking for results and they’re often frustrated because they don’t see those results and they don’t’ know why.

CEOs are frustrated. PXPs are frustrated. So, what’s the solution?

Conversation. We believe these two key players in the PX need to come together to share their expectations openly. CEOs need to let PXPs know the specific results they’re looking for. PXPs, in turn, need to let their CEOs know the resources they need to achieve those results—and why.

This isn’t about asking for the moon, and it’s not about whining or complaining. This is about asking for realistic support, tools and technology to drive desired outcomes. As we coach PXPs at hospitals around the country our role often involves creating these dialogues. We’re coaching the PXPs, and we’re coaching the CEOs, and then we’re helping them come together for discussions around realistic priorities and developing game plans. It’s often an outside set of eyes, and a non-biased perspective that can generate understanding and solutions.

Together they can help each other figure out how to get the work done in the context of their reality. First agree on the what. Then come together to discuss how. How will you leverage existing resources and stakeholders to make this work? Talk to each other. Make your needs known. Your patients will be glad you did.

About Baird Group

Baird Group is a results-oriented consulting group specializing in customer service improvement and mystery shopping for healthcare organizations. The Baird Group delivers insightful observations, customized service strategies and training. Since 1991 it has provided healthcare clients with targeted solutions for customer-service challenges.