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Chief Experience Officers; The Newest Member of the C-Suites in Healthcare

At least partially as a response to the demands of the comprehensive Affordable Care Act (ACA), health systems have expanded their C-suites to include Chief Experience Officers. Similar job descriptions are also found under the heading Chief Customer Officer or Chief Client Officer. The position comes complete with the nifty acronym CXO and is changing the way healthcare is delivered. CXOs are charged with more than ensuring that patients have a pleasant stay while undergoing treatment. Rather, they are in charge of ensuring that patients are safe, satisfied, and receive top quality care.

To achieve these goals, CXOs coordinate with every department in a health system. They don’t often have huge teams of their own, but act as a roving watchdog that helps everyone in the healthcare-delivery chain perform better. While each part of the system is largely concerned with itself alone, the CXO is there to see the bigger picture and to help each individual part of the healthcare system integrate with the others.

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What is the Role of an Experience Officer Overall in Healthcare?

The CXO in any healthcare organization is charged with ensuring that every patient receives top quality care in a safe environment. Their goal is to ensure that patients receive this, from intake through to their discharge. Thus, every part of the system that falls under their review must strive for high marks in safety, quality, and overall satisfaction. That can entail changes in staff, equipment, protocols, and more. In their quest to deliver the very best healthcare to all patients, a CXO could be very disruptive to the old ways of delivering healthcare.

CXOs must be cognizant of all aspects of healthcare delivery. They need to understand, for instance, how patients are greeted at intake. They may review intake surveys to ensure that clinicians receive the best information. This sort of insight and attention to detail extends throughout the patient experience.

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Through interviews, surveys, and experience, CXOs gain deeper insights into patient needs in the Emergency Room and diagnostic departments. CXOs might also review how medical residencies are conducted, ensuring that new doctors are able to deliver the very best care. Their influence can even extend to the orderlies, who may need to adjust their protocols and safety procedures to make sure their ailing patients are comfortable and protected.

At the end of the day, CXOs don’t have a singular role to fulfill. They have a singular purpose but must have a comprehensive knowledge of not only clinical procedure but public health concerns, governmental regulations, the realities of the insurance industry, human resources, and budgeting concerns. To reduce their role to a simple phrase such as “maximize patient outcomes” doesn’t quite capture their role in streamlining and focusing massive and diversified systems to a singular purpose within an overarching vision.

  • With the Customers
    The CXO in a healthcare organization can, and should, have a dramatic impact on each and every patient-customer. After all, the CXO is there to see that each part of the patient experience is integrated with the next, that patient needs are immediately and efficiently attended to, and that every step in the treatment process is maximized for every individual.CXOs must determine how well their healthcare system has performed, based not on internal reporting but on patient statements. Much as a User Experience (UX) professional in a software company tests their products with focus groups to see what works and what needs work, a healthcare CXO uses patient outcomes as a guide for improvements.To achieve these goals, CXOs need to not only produce top analysis of patient outcomes, but they must also be able to motivate each clinician and administrator who works with patients. Thus, while the CXO might not interact much with patients on a daily basis, their leadership and enthusiasm for patient well-being carries through to the patient’s clinical experience.
  • With the Company
    Healthcare companies rely on CXOs to help raise the bar for patient care. They also look to these executives to ensure that the company’s needs are met. Since the Affordable Care Act has placed an emphasis on patient experiences and outcomes, healthcare systems must deliver the best care in order to receive full reimbursements.A CXO also has a marketing function. In a tight healthcare market, they can focus on attracting the best clinicians and diagnostic equipment that will then attract patients. Other features of a hospital can be improved, as well, such as the overall aesthetic as experienced from the patient’s perspective. CXOs might also work with marketing to get the word out about how they deliver top patient outcomes.The best CXO will not only attract and keep patients but they will also help the hospital meet budgetary goals. If they can help streamline patient care with an eye to cost reduction, everyone wins. Positive patient experiences need not be costly; when the focus is on fundamental needs, each budgetary dollar can stretch farther.

Emphasizing A Balance in Customer and Employee Experience

Customer experiences are largely contingent on employee experiences. That is, a stressed and burned out staff isn’t able to deliver care in a way that best meets patient needs. Happy clinicians are able to focus with greater clarity and thus do their very best to deliver top-tier care to patients. CXOs are not hired to work staff harder, but rather to see that staff work smarter. When the CXO is able to address staff needs, the possibilities for patient experience improvements increase.

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This is due to the fact that CXO’s are concerned with bigger-picture issues. They see the patient experience as the result of a system of interlocking services and interactions. Thus, CXOs help to improve the whole institution and don’t just put out fires.

From a Public Relations standpoint, healthcare systems can thus highlight their staff. Staff interviews and profiles in company literature can raise the profile and reputation of the institution. When that information is added to stellar patient outcomes, the institution further establishes itself as a vital part of the community.

How to Earn the Title CXO

The title of CXO is not one that is easy to come by. It requires a professional who has fantastic experience in healthcare from either the administrative side or the clinical side. The best CXOs will have intimate knowledge of both clinical and administrative procedures and protocols. They might also need a degree such as an MS of healthcare administration or a graduate level degree in healthcare management and perhaps certificates that cover technological and public health topics.

CXO’s might also benefit from time in a Human Resources department and they need to have intimate knowledge of the healthcare culture so as to better facilitate communication between departments and individuals. Thus, knowledge and experience with Organizational Psychology is vital to success. On top of all this, CXOs need to have an understanding of budgeting and accounting principles.

There is no clear-cut formula for becoming a CXO, but professionals who desire this position should seek a perspective that can encompass the bigger picture of healthcare delivery. While pinpointing specific areas for improvement is vital, a CXO needs to see how those individual areas impact upon the whole system and the patient’s overall experience.

Useful Skills

  • Marketing Knowledge
    The CXO needs to deliver patient outcomes that can be monetized through marketing and public relations campaigns. Thus, it’s vital that a CXO be able to translate their successes into easily digestible narratives for the consuming public.
  • Data Analytics
    Every CXO needs to be able to assess their system using data analytics. That is, they should be able to translate general trends into actionable imperatives that improve outcomes for every patient.
  • Feedback Integration
    When a CXO assesses a system, they need to be able to take the various inputs they receive from clinicians, administrators, and patients and integrate those statements into a narrative that reflects the overall system. That information can help them pinpoint areas that need improvement.
  • Social Media Management
    In order to demonstrate to the wider public that the healthcare system is addressing patient outcomes, it is necessary to get the word out. CXOs might not have the time to tweet or post to Facebook on a regular basis, so they may need a communications professional to help deliver those messages.
  • Medical Experience
    Since a CXO will need to work with doctors, nurses, and technicians, it will be very much to their advantage to have deep experience on the clinical side. Not only will that experience inform their statements and opinions, but they will gain more credibility from those clinicians when they can show that they’ve been there and have experience that surpasses mere administration.
  • Emotional Intelligence
    The most effective CXO will have vast Emotional Intelligence. They will be able to communicate with a wide range of staff in the hospital setting. Further, they can deliver criticisms with tact and in such a way as to acknowledge the other’s possible resistance. Perhaps more importantly, a CXO with a high EI can listen to patients, clinicians, and staffers with minimum resistance and maximum empathy.

How Much Can You Earn?

CXOs command a very healthy salary. The average salary for experience leaders in the healthcare setting is approximately $167,000. That figure can go as high as $217,000 for professionals who work in hospitals that have between 601 and 1,000 beds. Once these professionals reach the C-suites, average salaries jump to an average of $221,000, with more possible depending on the number of beds. Vice Presidents in the field earn slightly less with an average salary of $216,000. It’s important to note that these figures are for salary alone and don’t include other forms of compensation.

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CXOs might be permitted expense accounts, extensive healthcare benefits, stock options, and bonuses. If a CXO is successful in not only speeding reimbursements through the ACA, but growing the patient population, a bonus check could be a rather large part of their overall compensation.

Job Growth

Since the Affordable Care Act began factoring patient feedback into how hospitals are reimbursed, the CXO role has become more and more widespread. The first CXO was hired at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic as an effort to grow the system from the inside. They realized that a specific role was needed so that patient-care issues received the close attention to detail that was necessary. It was no longer acceptable to repaint a crowded waiting room in hopes of creating a cheery atmosphere. What was needed was a way to address the backlog and wait for care, and that required more than paint and a new television.

Not all healthcare systems have adopted the role into their rosters, but the position is on the rise. There are more than fifty CXO’s today. As those healthcare systems grow and succeed, their competition is starting to see the need for CXOs, too.

Furthermore, the healthcare industry is experiencing huge growth with new career opportunities. Whether one looks at clinical or administrative jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that they are all growing faster than average. As long as the population continues to age and the ACA maintains a high number of younger citizens with healthcare coverage, the trend for CXOs should also continue to rise.

A Few Top CXOs to Know About:

  • Lisa Allen, PhD:
    Chief Patient Experience Officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine (Baltimore)
  • Adrienne Boissy, MD:
    Chief Patient Experience Officer of Cleveland Clinic Health System
  • Jonathan Bothell, MSN, RN:
    Director of Office of the Patient Experience, University of Iowa Health Care
  • Rick Evans:
    Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Keith Gran:
    Chief Patient Experience Officer of University of Michigan Health System

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