Another way to get buy-in from clinical staff as well as the board is to show that initiatives lead to positive outcomes, which can be a challenge for chief experience officers.
Laurie Brown, chief experience officer at CHI Franciscan since March 2017, said it takes time before data can show things have improved, but there is a “need for instant results.”
Rowe at Korn Ferry said that’s a common problem in this role. “It’s very easy to see a return on investment for a new partnership or a new joint venture. This is truly change management and it does take time. There needs to be the willingness of the organization to see the change through,” he said.
Brown said she deals with that by bringing up her work at every leadership meeting to ensure it stays top-of-mind for the organization. She also encourages storytelling from frontline staff about positive interactions with patients. “Sometimes they (clinicians) forget how impactful they really are, so being able to remind them of that has been helpful,” she said.
Even so, chief experience officers can still see resistance from clinical staff on this kind of work. Physicians or nurses may say it’s not their job or they don’t have the time to provide patients with a good experience.
Dr. Greg Burke, chief experience officer at Geisinger Health, said he combats that by encouraging staff to do simple things like sitting next to patients or making eye contact. “It doesn’t take you more time to sit, and it sends a message to the patient,” he said.
Chief experience officers also don’t need a huge team or budget to make an impact. Evans at New York-Presbyterian said his team is relatively small, but works with others to be influential in the organization.
Brown said in times of shrinking margins for health systems, it’s better to work with what the organization has instead of asking for more. “You want to preserve the resources at the bedside. You don’t want to build overhead,” she said.
And even given the challenges of the role—and the apparent dwindling number of executives who hold the title—chief experience officers are confident they are needed.
Burke said he’s the one who speaks with upset patients or informs physicians about the work underway to improve patient experience.
“I think there will always be the need for someone who can answer those questions and be available to walk into the difficult situations,” he said.
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