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At your service: Bringing hospitality to hospitals leads to happier patients

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While you won’t get a mint on your pillow at your next hospital stay, you may notice a better overall experience. Hospitals are taking a cue from the hospitality industry to boost patient satisfaction with a newly created job: chief experience officer.

Think of a chief experience officer (CXO) as a high-level hospital concierge who ensures that a patient's hospital stay is as comfortable and pleasant as possible. A CXO champions compassionate care, focusing on open communication with patients and "making sure staff are attentive to their needs, whether that’s more face time with nurses or quieter hallways so they can sleep," reports The Washington Post.

Happy patients, prosperous hospitals

The shift to improve customer service isn’t entirely due to the kindness of medical executives; it benefits hospitals as well. Patient satisfaction scores — tallied by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey — have a financial impact on hospitals, affecting the reimbursements they receive from Medicare, for example.

"The financial penalties introduced by the Affordable Care Act," Kaiser Health News reports, "are part of a broader effort to transform health-care delivery and improve quality while reining in costs, increasing transparency and holding hospitals and providers accountable for their work."

“I’ve seen much greater attention [paid to patient experience] from senior leadership because of the financial incentives,” Lisa Allen, chief experience officer of Johns Hopkins Medical, Baltimore, tells Modern Healthcare.

As consumers’ out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, they are also more likely to “comparison shop” and choose health care providers based on reviews, says Paul Westbrook, CXO of Inova Health Systems, in The Washington Post.

“They are going to look on the Internet and on Medicare’s site comparing hospitals, and they are going to read comments,” he said. “It’s no different from TripAdvisor.”

Treating patients like guests

Medical centers are taking the role of the chief patient experience officer seriously, offering a salary of $98,000 in Sacramento and $119,000 in Washington DC, according to Indeed.com. Some of the most desirable candidates include nurses with a strong history of one-on-one contact with patients, forward-thinking hospital executives and people from the hospitality industry because they have expertise in treating consumers like guests, reports Becker’s Hospital Review.

The drive to bolster patient satisfaction is happening outside hospital walls too. This year the Association of Patient Experience launched the peer-reviewed Journal of Patient Experience, and the “Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit” — the world’s largest independent conference focused on improving patient experience — has been held annually for the last five years.

A happy patient is good for everyone, says Brian Johnston of Stanton Chase International, an executive search firm. "Higher patient satisfaction and experience leads to healthier and more engaged patients," he tells Becker’s Hospital Review.

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