What I Wish Every CEO Knew About the Patient Experience

Posted by Kristin Baird on December 8th, 2015 • No Comments »

Leadership is everything when it comes to organizational culture. And of course, culture drives the patient experience (PX). Given these two truisms, it’s safe to say: leadership drives the patient experience. I believe that most CEOs would agree with this premise, and yet fail to see how their priorities and subsequent behaviors place their organization in whatever current position they’re in. Good or bad.

In all my years of working with hospital CEOs and their organizations, I’ve learned many things that distinguish the 5 star organizations from the rest. First, there is a basic premise that must apply to the PX just as it does to any other aspect of the business. The CEOs key responsibilities are:

  1. Set the vision
  2. Secure the right talent
  3. Have the resources (cash) to achieve core strategy


When it comes to the PX, many CEOs have not set a clear vision for the culture of the future. Of course they have a vision statement for the organization, but it is still vital that they have a clear vision of the culture of the future. This should be a compelling and inspirational vision. Instead, they point only to the metrics. They state goals around HCAHPS and CG-CAHPS and instead of feeling inspired and motivated, the front line staff often feel beat up and resentful.


Healthcare is notorious for promoting good clinicians into leadership positions. The reward for being a good clinician is to be placed into a management role for which they are unprepared and may have no talent for. Technical skills are not the same as leadership skills. The result is poorly run departments, frustrated staff, and a plethora of other problems.

When it comes to the PX, this practice continues. I am seeing countless organizations appointing someone who demonstrates great customer service skills to lead their patient experience efforts. Great customer service skills are a good start but the PX leader must be a skilled change agent who can shape strategy and align key players and tactics around the vision. They must have a clear understanding of their stakeholders and know how to engage them. They must have sound leadership experience. This isn’t happening. In many organizations, someone is anointed as the PX coordinator or manager and expected to generate results when they don’t have the leadership and change management skills or resources. The result is that they are chasing tactics like crazy and nothing sticks. This is not good for the individual or the organization.


Creating a position for the PX leader is NOT providing resources. The PX leader is going to need authority to influence change and a budget with support staff to get the work done. Don’t place a coordinator or specialist position six levels down in the org chart and expect that he/she will have the authority to foster change. I do understand this position is new to many organizations so there is no framework for budgeting and structure. In this case, the CEO must keep the door open for unforeseen budget items in the first year at least.

And finally, if the CEO doesn’t make the PX a priority; no one else will either. How do you demonstrate it’s a priority? First, by making the PX a strategic objective and focusing on the three actions listed above. Show it’s a priority by making rounds, talking with patients, families and staff while modeling and recognizing stellar behaviors. Hold everyone accountable starting with the C-suite. Know how their goals align with the PX. Additionally, there should be a core set of behaviors that every person is expected to demonstrate. Share stories with staff. Every time the CEO shares stories about the PX (good or bad), it sends the message that he/she is tuned into what is happening.

In my book, Raising the Bar on Service Excellence, I focus on the five Ps for leaders. They are: Priority, People, Processes, Purpose and Passion. How are you measuring up on the five Ps?

In the past year, I have seen countless examples of organizations struggling with their PX because they have not set the vision, put the right leader at the helm, or allocated adequate resources. This recurring situation was the impetus for creating The PXP Advisor©. By supporting your Patient Experience Professional (PXP) with individualized coaching, audit, and action plans, we provide the professional development to help you move further, faster toward your goals. If you’re not gaining traction with your current situation, our coaches and the PXP Advisor© course can build on what you have in place.

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Baird Consulting

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