PX2018: The Line Between Patient Experience and Patient Engagement Continues to Blur

Posted on May 4, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

The 2018 Patient Experience Conference, #PX2018, hosted by The Beryl Institute, was a wholly different than previous incarnations. In prior years the central focus was squarely on patient experience. This year, there was significant emphasis placed on patient engagement and activating patients. It was a welcome change.

The Beryl Institute’s annual conference is one of the events I look forward to each year. It is a positive, upbeat, and reaffirming event that brings together healthcare professionals involved with improving patient experience. Attendees come from around the world including: Canada, UK, Sweden and Asia. This gives the event an international flavor and brings together many different perspectives on patient experience.

In 2004, I attended my first patient experience conference. Back then the event was organized and hosted by the Society of Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA) – a society within the American Hospital Association. In those days, the annual gathering was designed specifically for Patient Feedback professionals and Patient Advocates that worked inside hospitals. The event, was dominated by sessions about patient surveys (later becoming HCAHPS) and timely responses to patient complaints. For many years the annual SHCA event remained operationally focused.

In 2013, SHCA was integrated into The Beryl Institute and things began to shift markedly. Instead of an annual SHCA conference that was narrowly aimed at patient complaints, the new conference from The Beryl Institute was much broader and covered the whole of patient experience. The sessions became less operational and more strategic in nature. Words like “empathy” and phrases like “meeting patients where they are” became part of the hallway chatter.

Fast forward to 2018. “Patient Experience” has become an even broader term and perhaps slightly overused. All sorts of HealthIT companies and consulting firms now boldly state they are in the patient experience business. The term is now used to refer to everything from patient advocacy to patient rights to online reviews (and reputation management) to patient engagement/activation. As the definition has changed, so too has The Beryl Institute conference.

The first hint that something was different came when I scanned the program agenda a few weeks before the conference. There were several sessions that I did not expect to see:

  • Engaging Families and Teams in I-PASS to Improve Patient Safety and Experience
  • OpenNotes: Breaking Barriers, Changing Culture, Engaging Patients
  • Building Operational Capacity for Patient Engagement

I was also pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of vendors in the exhibit hall. Companies like OneView, TVR Communications, Relatient and eVariant each had demonstrations of products that educated patients, reminded patients about their care plans and directed patients to the most appropriate service line or physician based on an analysis of their needs. All of these capabilities are focused in the world of patient engagement yet judging by the busy traffic at these booths, it is clear that patient experience professionals are stakeholders and influencers for the purchase of those solutions.

Even consulting companies like Cast & Hue (who did a fun design-thinking exercise in their booth) talked about how they can help healthcare organizations build better processes and workflows to encourage more patient involvement.

I welcome the blurring between patient experience and patient engagement. Although it is possible to be good at one without the other, the goal should be to improve one alongside the other. To me, patient engagement is tangible and measurable – something which was becoming increasingly difficult to do in the world of patient experience pre-2010. I believe a good patient experience is a prerequisite to engaging patients in their care which leads to better outcomes – which is ultimately the goal we are all striving for.