New C-suite position to watch: Chief experience officers
Beyond customer service
Executive support positions, like chief experience officers, population health officers, and data scientists, must work together to identify deficits and build better structures and training protocols that make the humanized experience the path of least resistance so that it’s easier to deliver care with dignity and respect.
“Some organizations do look at it as customer service, but there’s a much deeper work to it,” Boehm says. “One role is to recognize that compassion needs to be nurtured. Part of the success is recognizing that there is a provider and a patient and a family side. Piling patient experience work on clinicians is not a strategy for success. They need care for themselves in addition to aspirations for the patient.”
Patient and caregiver experience must also be linked to qualify and safety.
“When you are providing a more humanized experience, you are delivering better quality,” Boehm says. “If you train those as separate silos, it becomes easy as a clinical to focus on safety and quality and forget that human component.”
Health systems need to find a way to integrate these teams, agrees Duffy, who co-founded the Experience Innovation Network to create partnerships that advance the development of more humanistic care models. In the future, she says CXOs might work under an umbrella of an innovation or resiliency department, where the entire patient and caregiver experience is considered.
“What I see now is a movement back toward integration and more coordination of roles and a changing or shifting of titles due to what I call the silo-ification of healthcare,” Duffy says. “Too many silos have been created that are focused on different things without aligning the efforts within an institution.”
Heart of the matter
Susan Murphy, RN, is the chief experience and innovation officer at The University of Chicago Medicine. Although she has the executive title, Murphy says she considers herself first and foremost a caregiver and that drives her work.
“As caregivers, we’re just trying to do our checklist and end up putting our blinders on. How do we take that moment, and take that breath, and put those observers on?” Murphy says. “The most powerful thing we do, which is kind of simple, is when we’re going to work with a new team, we ask them why they’re here. When you open that dialogue, when you get to the heart of the leaders and caregivers, you get to the heart of the patient, and that’s what I feel our job is. There’s a certain kind of person it takes to walk into a patient’s life and start doing very personal things to them.”
Murphy says her role isn’t to tell caregivers how to improve scores or performance, but to serve as a mentor and coach and support the frontline providers to make sure they have the tools and equipment they need to do what they already know how to do. Skills are one thing, but helping caregivers remain patient-oriented and not task-oriented can take some work.
“People who come in and care for people every day may not recognize that what they’re doing every day is changing people’s lives,” Murphy says. “People know me, they know me here. I don’t really look at scores. The scores will come when we look at stories and we look at how caregivers feel when they’re here in the organization.”