Share Wildly and Steal Willingly

Posted 17:10 Wednesday 12 April 2017
Andreas Norgren

Andreas Norgren

About this blogger
Beryl Institute

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to Colorado on the other side of the pond. Apart from being fortunate enough to enjoy a couple of days of snowshoe hiking and snowboarding at 11,000 feet in the astonishing Rocky Mountains (everyone deserves a snow day, right?), I also had the pleasure of attending the annual patient experience conference hosted by the Beryl Institute in Denver.

At this 3-day conference with over 1,000 delegates, 125 speakers and 50 exhibitors from around the globe, I met lots of passionate, smart and open-minded people all with a burning desire to improve the patient experience. I was in particular struck by how inclusive an atmosphere it was and I have rarely found myself in a setting where people from the public, private and academic sector all seem to speak the same language and are so willing to share ideas as well as good (and not so good) practices.

Some of you may be familiar with the Beryl Institute, but if you’re not I would highly recommend checking them out. In short though, the Beryl Institute is the global community of practice dedicated to improving patient experience through sharing and collaboration.

My head is full of inspiration and I have already shared plenty of learnings internally here at the MES Towers (including my hiking photos of snow-covered mountains). In this blog I will aim to share some of these things with you as well, in one of those classic “7 things we learned” posts. I am in particular trying to highlight differences of how we do things in the NHS compared to other healthcare systems and I do hope you forgive me for trying to simplify a rather complex and rapidly evolving sector in a list.

But anyway, here we go – my 7 takeaways from the Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Conference 2017 in Denver, Colorado.

1. Why bother with Patient Experience (PX)?

There is a fair amount of evidence pointing towards the fact that patient experience has a direct impact on clinical outcomes, financial outcomes and organisational reputation. And there were plenty of stories, case studies, and examples all showcasing this during the conference.

Another very prominent component in places like the US (and elsewhere I’m sure), but one we don’t really consider in the NHS, is impact of patient experience on ‘customer loyalty’. I took part in many conversations which discussed how to increase ‘customer attraction’, ‘customer retention’, ‘brand loyalty’ and how to ensure ‘customer loyalty’ in an ever-increasing ‘competitive landscape’. Even though those concepts can feel alien to people working in a publicly funded healthcare system like the NHS, I can’t help but wonder whether some of that mentality could actually be helpful. From what I saw, it is a real attempt at seeing things from someone else’s point of view, walking in their shoes and treating them in a personal way – and isn’t that an example of the compassion that patient experience promotes?

2. The State of PX Worldwide 2017

During his opening speech, Jason Wolf – President at the Beryl Institute – presented initial findings from their biennial study on the state of patient experience. The study covered 1,644 respondents from 26 Countries across 6 continents, and 3 interesting things that stood out were:

  • The role of the Senior PX leader is growing. The responsibility no longer sits with a committee or work group, but there is an established role on Director-level with clear responsibility and accountability.
  • The motivation for PX is moving beyond mandates. It is now a priority of some hospital’s Boards and leadership teams, and even engrained in organisational cultures.
  • Staff engagement is the fastest growing priority when it comes to driving positive patient experience, and that applies to both clinical and non-clinical staff.

This third point is something that really hit home with me, and at MES we will dedicate some serious thought to this going forward. We already have plans to expand our current automated text analytics software to not only look at patient feedback, but to also expand it so that we can analyse staff feedback.

‘Data triangulation’ is a very dry expression, but think of it this way – how valuable would it be to be able to look at the same issue from both patients’ and staff’s points of view? What if you can identify issues via large volumes of qualitative patient feedback and understand the root causes from qualitative staff feedback, in real time? Now that is something to write home about, so watch this space!

3. To be, or not to be…identifiable

When we collect patient feedback in the NHS, it is almost always imperative that patient anonymity is guaranteed and protected. The reasoning behind this is, usually, that no patient should have to fear that the feedback they or their family members provide will in any way affect the care they receive. This is a noble thought and one worth protecting, but the downside of this of course is that clinicians can not necessarily change their behaviour towards individual patients as they don’t know who provided the feedback. In the US however it is common to know not only the patient’s identity but also the clinician’s. This creates a much tighter and more immediate feedback loop and can definitely have a positive impact.

What do you think? Should patients in the NHS have the option of identifying themselves if they want to, so that they can receive more personally centred care and individual clinicians or teams can receive more accurate feedback and also link it to other relevant information? It is a very interesting thought I think, but one that would require substantial regulatory and operational changes not only among NHS providers but also among those of us who supply patient experience surveys and insights to the NHS.

4. Data ownership

As a supplier to the NHS, we would not claim ownership over the data we collect. It is the norm that the NHS Trust/CCG/GP is the so-called data controller (owner) and suppliers are the data processors. In the US however we saw examples of commercial suppliers claiming ownership of the survey data they collect on behalf of healthcare organisations. This in my opinion creates an uneven balance in the sector and could hinder system-wide change and possible transformation, as the picture becomes fragmented when healthcare organisations are not free to openly share data as they see fit. And this in turn could mean that it becomes possible to profiteer on data that I would argue should be shared widely and used for the greater good of improving the quality, safety and experience of care.


Another acronym – but a very interesting one. CPXP is a fairly recently established certification for Certified Patient Experience Professionals, which is a great step towards raising the profile and professionalism of the patient experience profession, and ensuring that there is a common language and knowledge base to build on.

The exam is provided by the PX Institute, a sister organisation to the Beryl Institute, and covers 4 different domains, including:

  • Partnership and Advocacy
  • Measurement and Analysis
  • Design and Innovation
  • Organizational Culture and Leadership

I would love to see this spread to the UK and NHS. Interested in discussing this further or maybe partnering up? Please do get in touch!

6. Patients’ fear of costs

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise but there’s a notable difference in how patients view the costs of treatment in different healthcare systems. In a publicly funded system like the NHS we rarely see patients fear the costs of treatment. They may fear the financial impact a disease or long-term condition will have on their lives, but we don’t necessarily see patients’ fear of paying for the treatment itself or whether it is covered under insurance or not (albeit there are of course treatments and drugs not covered by the NHS). In the US however this is a more common fear among patients. Perhaps this topic was made even more prominent since during the same week I attended the conference, all the news channels were reporting on how President Trump’s administration tried to gain the necessary votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, which according to some reports would lead to 14 million more uninsured Americans by next year.

7. Open Innovation

Ever since I first read Henry Chesbrough’s book on Open Innovation over a decade ago, I have been a strong advocate of partnerships and idea sharing in order to drive organisational and product development. A wise man once said “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else” and so in order to innovate, you have to openly collaborate with other organisations and use purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge. Personally I find that we in the UK are not always the best at that. I have rarely been at a conference openly discussing good practices with a direct competitor, and I can’t think of a single occasion when a competitor actually recommended me getting in touch with a third competitor as “they would definitely be interested in this and would be a good collaborator”. But such is the culture within the Beryl Institute community, and I was really blown away by this! Would love to see more of that on this side of the pond.

So, those were 7 of my key takeaways from Denver. There are many more I could have included and, in particular, all the practical examples I learnt about of how patient experience has been improved, very often by directly engaging staff and patients in the improvement process. If you are interesting in discussing those or the ones I’ve written about above, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Or, why not participate in our health engagement conference ‘Challenge 2020’ on the 16th May in London for a chance to share wildly and steal willingly with a group of equally dedicated health engagement professionals. Hope to see you there!

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