Doctor Checking Patient

How Consumer “Experience” is Shaping Healthcare and Why This Is Good for HIE

December 03 2015 by Gary Hamilton

In response to increasing emphasis by payers and government on patient satisfaction in healthcare, hospitals continue to add Chief Experience Officers (CXOs) to their C-suite. This is good for health information exchange (HIE) and health information technology (HIT) in general, since patients continue to embrace mobile and online technologies to engage with their healthcare providers while simultaneously expecting to have access to their medical records at every healthcare institution they might encounter.

The timing couldn’t be better. As 2015 draws to a close, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are looking hard at why more progress wasn’t made through incentive programs like meaningful use. Unfortunately, we’re seeing vendors blaming providers for deliberately dragging their feet on adoption, providers blaming vendors for building shoddy electronic health record (EHR) systems, and both blaming the government for pushing too hard and incentivizing EHR development before finalizing a standard for information exchange. While there’s some truth to all of these statements, they distract from the real issue, which is how to engage patients in their own healthcare. The answer, of course, is to give patients what they’ve wanted all along—access.

The in-fighting has been discouraging. Thankfully, refocusing the entire effort toward the consumer experience resets the whole affair. Everyone involved now has but one problem to solve: how to improve the patient’s experience, which pretty much means focusing on consumer demand and not on attestation or certification.

Additionally, the government is strengthening transparency in healthcare legislation while simultaneously passing the baton from public oversight to private sector accountability. Activities detrimental to HIE, such as information blocking, are being exposed and dealt with. And consumer demand for clear, unfettered, secure access to medical records—anywhere/anytime—is taking priority and refocusing government’s involvement in healthcare towards writing legislation that enables and supports it.

Thus, the growing numbers of CXOs in hospitals around the nation. CXOs bring a much needed championing of oversight and accountability to patient satisfaction at a time when payment reform is still getting started.

In a recent Becker’s Hospital Review article, these CXOs listed what they believe to be the most important innovations in healthcare today:

• “No. 1 is transparency in public physician ratings by patients … we know patients are often making choices based on experience of care, and we wanted to make sure they had the information at their fingertips to do that … another win is increased access for patients … we regularly hear from patients that being able to easily access our services is an important part of their experience,” Adrienne Boissy, MD, CXO of Cleveland Clinic.

• “The biggest win for patients across the industry this year was the increasing influence of consumerism … choices regarding treatment are expanding rapidly for patients—in terms of location (virtual versus brick-and-mortar), time (24/7 versus traditional business hours), and method of access (online scheduling, patient electronic health record access, patient portals versus a phone call during business hours) … healthcare providers that listen closely to the consumer voice, along with an unrelenting measurement and performance improvement strategy, will be successful today and in the future,” Amy Cotton, MSN, NP, FAAN, Vice President of Patient Engagement and CXO of Eastern Maine Healthcare System (EMHS).

• “Healthcare is catching up with the rest of the world in terms of allowing people to access their providers in different ways, whether it’s over Skype-like connections or patients’ own portals to manage their own care … another win for patients is how healthcare is becoming more transparent both in terms of our quality and experience outcomes … some of the innovative work that’s being done with telemedicine and telehealth is very exciting for our patients and their providers,” Rick Evans, former CXO of Massachusetts General Hospital.

• “We have made our patient satisfaction ratings, as well as both negative and positive patient comments, regarding our employed physicians publically available on our website. That’s a big win for our patients, who now have the ability to make informed and empowered decisions on provider care,” Sven Gierlinger, Vice President and CXO of North Shore-LIJ Health System.

• “The ‘big win’ for patients in 2015 has been the widespread public sharing of patient experience data on the Internet … this new public transparency of patient experience, together with quality and safety ratings, will help patients in their healthcare choices and help hospitals and physicians continue to improve the care they provide,” Thomas J. Savides, MD, CXO of UC San Diego Health.

• “The biggest win for patients this year has been our industry’s ability to adapt to the technology revolution. Our industry is adapting to new workflows that are more consumer—or person-centric—as it relates to technology. Using smartphones and other devices at the point of care, and telehealth, are truly opening the door for patients to access their providers and their medical records more efficiently,” Dawn Rudolph, CXO of Saint Thomas Health.

Healthcare providers and EHR vendors are shifting their focus toward the patient-provider bond. This reprioritization is being strengthened by HIT development and government legislation that enables and supports a healthy HIE environment. This is the right prescription at the right time for our ailing healthcare system.

Gary Hamilton – CEO, InteliChart