Cleveland Clinic's chief experience officer: Communication, attention keys to customer satisfaction

To deliver exceptional customer service, hospitals must focus on communicating with patients and giving them personal attention, the Cleveland Clinic's chief experience officer says in a commentary published this week on The Exchange blog.

This means attention from doctors and nurses at all feasible times, time to understand what each medication treats and any possible side effects, and, most important, what to do after discharge," writes James Merlino, M.D., who also is founder and president of the Association for Patient Experience.

Patients too often are made to feel they don't deserve a superior experience because healthcare is a necessity rather than a luxury, Merlino writes.

"In fact, the focus on the customer/patient should be the most important thing in healthcare--and it can be a real differentiator for hospitals," he writes. "But for many hospitals, patient experience is about making and keeping patients happy, which misses the point completely because patient experience is also about a hospital's philosophy about the delivery of care."

Merlino's role as chief experience officer is an example of some of the initiatives underway at U.S. hospitals to improve customer satisfaction. Other initiatives include creating a "sacred moment" checklist to guide the gathering of key information while also learning patients' hopes and worries, and shadowing patients and their families to learn what could be improved.

"We're focused on the human experience of care, and when you focus on that and map the gaps in human experience while matching the gaps in efficiency, you'll find key points in the patients' journey where there are breakdowns in communications where you're at risk for adverse events in quality and safety," M. Bridget Duffy, M.D., Cleveland Clinic's former chief experience officer (now chief medical officer at Vocera Communications in San Francisco), told Amednews.

For more:
- here's Merlino's commentary