4 Ways to Discover the Experience Patients Really Want

caring cookieA conversation about the evolution of patient experience strategies and implementation is likely to reference Cleveland Clinic’s dramatic transformation from “about average” (in 2009) to “world-class leadership” that matches its clinical excellence.

The 90-plus year old institution was the first major academic medical center to make patient experience a strategic goal, appoint a Chief Experience Officer, and one of the first to establish an Office of Patient Experience.

Today, Cleveland Clinic satisfaction scores are among the top in the nation, and hospital executives learn about the Clinic’s best practices. In fact, the Clinic is eager to share patient experience ideas.

“It’s not good enough to tell people about what you’re doing or how successful you’ve been,” Dr. James Merlino, Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic told us in a podcast interview.

“They want to know what you’ve done, how you know it’s successful, and more importantly, how they can take what you’ve done and apply it to what they are doing.” (More about learning, leadership and exchanging patient experience ideas further along in this article.)

Four ways to discover what patients REALLY want…

In a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, Dr. Merlino proposed that digging deeper into the patient’s perspective on satisfaction can produce a more insightful understanding of the values that drive the patient’s experience, and what they value most. He cited innovative approaches to understanding patient needs that have been used in “various organizations, including the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Methodist Hospital in Houston, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, and the Cleveland Clinic.”

You’ll want to read the full HBR article, but here, briefly, he lists four approaches :

Create patient advisory councils. “Identify a group of patients that can act as the customers’ ‘voice’ within the organizations. It is easy to lose touch with its customers’ evolving needs.”

Dig deeper into patients’ experiences. “Hospitals can leverage HCAHPS data better by both digging deeper into the data and paying attention to anecdotal comments and complaints. This allows hospitals to understand not only how their patients feel about their experience but also why they felt the way they did.”

Have leaders make regular rounds. “At UCLA Medical Center, as well as other hospitals across the country, senior leaders make a habit of wandering throughout the hospital and talking to patients, their families, and caregivers. Direct contact provides leaders with a firsthand understanding of patient needs…[and] helps identify problems and opportunities for improvement.”

Tell stories. “There is nothing more moving than the incredible stories that patients relay about their experiences in the hospital. The good stories highlight the importance of their roles and demonstrate the incredible gratitude that patients have for their work. The bad stories often help explain the negative feelings about the hospital that some patients have.” 

Cleveland Clinic is not only openly willing to share “what works,” they have become the catalyst and host for an annual conference to do just that. And if there’s a peak experience for patient experience professionals, you’ll want to attend the 5th Annual Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit on May 18-21, hosted by Cleveland Clinic.

This inter-professional conference “brings together patient experience leaders, healthcare CEOs, nursing leaders, policy makers and major stakeholders for presentations, debate and candid discussion of key issues that drive patient experience. Attendees will hear how professionals strive to deliver the best clinical, physical and emotional experience to patients and families.”

Healthcare Success Strategies is pleased to be a Supporting Partner at the Summit, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us at this sterling event. Healthcare Success principals Stewart Gandolf and Lonnie Hirsch will be among the event speakers.

You’ll find more the Summit Agenda on this page. And for additional reading on this topic, see: At Cleveland Clinic, Patient Experience is Not Just About Patient Satisfaction, and Small Things That Build Patient Experience Big-time.

Lonnie Hirsch


About Lonnie Hirsch

Co-Founder of Healthcare Success Strategies, Lonnie has consulted for over 2,000 health care clients during his 20-year career. Lonnie writes for many healthcare publications, and also has spoken at hundreds of venues nationally. His topics include patient experience, customer service, marketing, branding and business development.
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