Back to the core of healthcare with the ‘PEO’

Is the Patient Experience Officer the pre-eminent role to focus (once again) on patient's experience?
Eline Maes

My mum has been a nurse for almost 40 years. Throughout her entire career, she has passionately taken care of people in the Intensive Care Unit. This passion for patients is the reason she got into this profession, although I regularly hear her say that things have changed quite a lot throughout the years, which makes it a bit harder…

Numerous evolutions have taken place throughout the past decades:

  1. Accreditation, quality, risk management, tracking, etc.,involve a lot of administration;
  2. The technological possibilities have only enforced this, causing attention is being shifted from the patient to the computer screen;
  3. Preventive screening allows customized healthcare, but it doesn’t just happen on its own – registration is essential here;
  4. Shorter hospital stays (thanks to the healthcare evolutions) have led to higher rotation and patients requiring a higher degree of care;
  5. Healthcare has only grown more complex due to the multidisciplinary.

So, my mum is right. A lot has changed indeed. And that’s good! But to what extent are we still equally involved with the patient? To what extent do we connect all the links? To what extent do we communicate well with the patient and those involved with him/her? To what extent do we support the patient and those involved with him/her in the ‘empowerment’ process?

Is the Patient Experience Officer (PEO), i.e. a key role that puts the patient’s experience first, the right answer to all these questions?

The PEO’s first task is to ensure that the hospital not only literally but figuratively keeps its finger on the patient’s pulse. In order to learn about patient experiences, these must be measured in the first place. Measuring patient experiences via ‘PREMs’, or ‘patient-related experience measures’ (e.g. after a visit to / stay in the hospital), provide a valuable source of input for further improvement of the service provision. Tools are available to automate both the surveys and the reports of the results. Moreover, the results are available in real-time, for all patients at once, but also for, e.g. traditional hospitalization, outpatient hospitalization, mobile interventions, and separate consultations, per medical discipline or per care unit, etc. This way, immediate action can be taken to improve the service provision. This way of working is time and cost efficient for the hospital and requires minimum effort from the patient. It is also possible to send patients a short reply to demonstrate that their feedback is being effectively used (there are also indicator options, e.g. in cases with lower scores). The PEO is responsible for processing this information, with the goal of mobilizing all relevant parties within the hospital.

This brings us to the PEO’s second task. Luckily, most healthcare professionals choose their profession because of the patients. However, due to the factors mentioned above, they have less and less time, which means they are less attentive to the patient. The PEO must make changes in this regard. However, it is not the intention that the PEO ends up being the only one responsible for the patient experience. A good PEO’s mission will be to raise awareness among all the (healthcare) professionals in the hospital and to get them mobilized on putting the patient first during day-to-day activities. A certain amount of autonomy and initiative can create the required leverage to let go of long-embedded procedures and hierarchies to be able to respond flexibly in certain cases to meet the patient’s expectations. It is also important for the healthcare professional to learn to listen to the patient again, and that this feedback gets passed along in order to take the necessary actions to improve the patient experience even more where possible. In other words, the PEO’s objective is to turn every doctor /specialist and employee in the hospital into a PEO and to, in the end, make himself/herself superfluous.

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