The Rise of Chief Experience and Population Health Officers

While Chief Experience Officers have taken seats at the C-Suite Table in business firms for many years, with a focus on improving internal and external customers experiences across the value chain, they are now becoming regular members of the healthcare C-Suite Table. This all started with the appointment of Dr. Bridget Duffy as Chief Experience Officer for the Cleveland Clinic in 2007 with a mission to improve patient safety, quality and clinical outcomes.

Dr. Duffy quickly identified that creating a patient-centered culture focused on communication and building trusting relationships among all external and internal customers was essential for improving interactive experiences and performance outcomes. This strategy clearly aligns with the current rise in Value Chain Analysis among Chief Quality Officers where patient experience data is increasingly used to predict compliance-based clinical outcomes among culturally and racially diverse patient populations.

In fact, the C-Suite triad that is being recognized as most effective in developing strategies to improve patient-centered outcomes include Chief Quality Officers, Chief Experience Officers and a Chief Population Health Officers (CPHO). These skilled leaders guide the development of strategies to maximize stakeholder value as healthcare reimbursements continue their rapid transition from Fee For Service to Value Based Payments.

According to Becker's Hospital Review and their interview with Mr. Jim King, senior partner and chief quality officer with Witt/Kieffer, the ideal CPHO will have a combination of the following leadership traits and experience:

- Public health experience. Often, CPHOs have a strong interest in public health, demonstrated through experience working at a state or national level with different public health institutes.

- Membership in a large physician group. Understanding how the employed physician model works is important for a CPHO, so having worked in that model can be helpful for a physician in a CPHO role. It is also important that they have "skills and experiences in influencing change in physician behaviors," Mr. King says.

- Other advanced degrees. Many successful CPHOs have a master's degree, often in areas such as business or health administration. "They are strong, business-savvy physicians…who can look at a market, get a handle on the different demographics and help figure out what needs to be done in terms of the care redesign there," Mr. King explains.

- Experience with team-based care. In accountable care, it becomes important for nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical technicians and other care providers to play a larger role in patient care. A physician in a CPHO position should have experience working under this team-based model so he or she can better communicate it to the system's clinicians.

This leadership triad should also be highly skilled in recognizing the value of culturally competent, patient-centered care, and how it influences patient behaviors and revenue under MACRA and Acute Care Value Based Reimbursement models. It must also remain keenly aware of competitive market forces that influence reimbursement levels that are more commonly based on benchmark performance outcomes. Finally, they should be skilled in data-guided system optimization, team-based process improvement, and value-guided cultural change strategies.

By James P. Young, Jr., PhD

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