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Why Your Health System Needs a CXO

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By M. Bridget Duffy, MD. Dr. Duffy, MD is the Chief Medical Officer, Vocera Communications and Co-Founder, Experience Innovation Network.

After more than 20 years working as a physician and then an advisor to healthcare leaders and organizations across the country, it’s rewarding to see an ever-increasing focus on the patient experience. Finally, humanizing healthcare is no longer considered the “soft stuff.”

Though cynics may argue that this renewed sense of responsibility is due to top-line financial penalties tied to patient satisfaction, I disagree. The enlightened hospitals and health systems with whom we collaborate are not just chasing scores. They are driven by passion and purpose to deliver high-quality care in a way that makes a difference in the lives of the patients, families and communities they serve.

At the forefront of this healthcare revolution are dedicated Chief Experience Officers (CXOs), leaders responsible for shepherding the experience transformation movement in their organizations. Some say everyone should “own” patient experience. Everyone should “own” quality as well, but without a dedicated Chief Quality Officer or a Chief Performance Improvement Officer, and Board Committees focused on quality and efficiency, it is difficult to garner resources and deliver results.

The same is true with experience improvement. While every physician, nurse and staff member who cares for patients should feel responsible for ensuring a superb experience, it is vital to appoint or anoint a leader who actually owns that work for the entire organization. Without a strong, respected CXO leading the charge, patient experience will take a back seat to other initiatives, it will become disjointed, and it will result in fatigue for staff and organizations.

The role of a CXO as a critical c-suite position in healthcare is now gaining traction. Years ago when quality and safety were questioned at hospitals across the country, chief quality and safety officers were appointed, national consortiums and annual meetings were set, and committees and board of directors were created. High-level quality and safety positions were established because there was an absolute need, and these roles are still essential today. Now, fast forward. The same is true for patient experience. I think 15 years from now we will look back and say, “Can you believe we didn’t have the role of a Chief Experience Officers until 2008?”

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