HCA’s first Patient Experience Officer discusses her role in patient experience

Lyn Ketelsen, HCA’s first-ever Patient Experience Officer, has a fairly simple mandate: create an environment where patients have an exceptional experience. But with literally hundreds of hospitals, physician’s offices, freestanding ERs and other facilities, coming up with a plan of action and executing it won’t be easy. Still, as a registered nurse of 30 years, and with more than a decade with the Studer Group, an organization that works with healthcare providers to improve patient outcomes, Ketelsen says she can see the issues at work from both administrative and bedside-caregiver levels. And that, she predicts, will help her as she begins to facilitate building an infrastructure that will encompass all of HCA.

YOU: What’s it like to create a position that is so important not only to HCA, but to all the employees in all our facilities?

Lyn Ketelsen: The focus on “patient experience” is becoming more and more important in the healthcare industry today. But providing quality care and service to patients and their families has always been a cornerstone of HCA’s heritage.

HCA has dedicated significant resources to this and it will extend far beyond me and my role. What I’m really here to do is provide subject-matter expertise and resources to the organizations so that they can scale their efforts and best practices to make that happen.

There are many initiatives in place at different facilities, and it all needs to be assessed so we can harvest the best practices and tie it all together. We may not be creating new programs as much as integrating current processes and systems with each other, and sharing them with all the facilities so that we are consistent in what we do, and can capitalize on what we do well more effectively.

YOU: What have you been doing so far to start putting programs and other measures into place?

LK: Even though I knew about some parts of HCA from my previous work with the Studer Group, I am spending my first 90 days just learning more about what has been happening here with regard to the patient experience. I’ve visited with a lot of people and am developing relationships so I can continue to learn what is working, and what could use some additional support.

Now I’m going to work to inventory the tools we have, prioritize what to focus on and provide assistance to facilities so we can get resources into the hands of their leaders. One of our first efforts will likely focus on nurse leader rounding and employee rounding. HCA has another strategic imperative – leadership development and talent management– that dovetails very nicely with what’s going on around awareness of and improving the patient experience. I believe we can capitalize on the leadership development curriculum to enhance knowledge and skills relative to patient experience, and as we train leaders, we can reach further out and offer more training to staff.

YOU: What specifically will you be focusing on to help leaders and employees make improvements in patient experience?

LK: We want to focus on both new and current staff and leaders, and that is beginning now. We will be working with the talent management on both recruitment and onboarding efforts, so we can make sure we are bringing in the best people to help us accomplish our goals. We also are developing systems to monitor and validate what’s in place, and are looking at enhancing reward and recognition systems to acknowledge performance when people are both progressing toward a goal and accomplishing those goals.

We monitor our progress in a lot of ways. Some are informal methods and others are more formal surveys such as HCAHPS. Those results are important, but we also want to make sure that we are actively listening to our patients directly so we can make sure we get
 good feedback from the people we treat. That will allow us to continually make improvements in our processes. That kind of ongoing assessment is critical, because we are building a patient experience infrastructure and there are many, many things that have to interlock.

YOU: Sometimes when we talk about training and goal setting, it can sound academic. How do you describe “patient experience” in a more personal way?

LK: First, there’s the platinum rule: We must treat patients and customers as they want to be treated.

We want everyone who engages with us, at every step along the continuum, to get not just what we think they need, but what they think they need.
Is every patient experiencing the HCA system — from potential patients who are just looking at HCA resources through our online portals, to those who are actively using our services and receiving our care — having a positive experience? Listening to the needs of those we serve and working diligently to exceed their expectations will define our success and reputation regarding patient experience.

YOU: If you could eavesdrop on a patient or a family member as they leave the hospital, what would you want to hear?

LK: I want to hear that they wouldn’t consider any place else but HCA for their care and that they would recommend us to their family and friends. We don’t want to define the patient experience just by scores and other measurements. Those are important, certainly, but we want to hear that people felt genuinely cared for, that their concerns were addressed and that they feel good about their plan of care now and in the future.

To make that happen consistently for those we serve, it will take every single person within HCA. Everyone in HCA is a caregiver. You are either taking care of patients or you take care of those who do. The issue of integration and collaboration is really important in this body of work, because at the end of the day, it will take every individual in this organization to be on board and engaged in this in order to be successful. We want everybody to know they all have a part.