Chief patient experience officer David Haynes cites customer service as an integral part of the hospital business model.

Hospital systems must attract new patients and retain existing ones to have a successful business model — and that often boils down to the patient experience.

Impressions made at check-in, empathy displayed by medical staff, even parking factors in, said David Haynes, M.D., VUMC’s chief patient experience officer (CXO).

“Let’s face it, if it takes you an hour to find a parking space and you have to wait two hours to see a doctor, your patient experience is not going to be positive,” Haynes said.

A bibliometric and literature review of patient satisfaction published in the journal Healthcare in 2023 states that other factors such as patient age and education also contribute to the satisfaction metric, which can be tied directly to “loyalty of the patient towards the healthcare provider.”

In addition to maintaining and building hospital business, loyalty leads patients to behave in ways that accrue benefits to both the patient and the medical practice, such as better adherence to doctor’s recommendations on prescription compliance and follow-up appointments.

With all this on the line, many hospitals have decided that the challenge of patient satisfaction is best handled by a dedicated patient experience officer.

Haynes was appointed to the role at VUMC in July 2023, becoming a voice for VUMC patients. He keeps their needs top-of-mind while developing and executing operational strategies and procedures. He is tasked with looking at the overall picture and seeking systemwide solutions.

Cleveland Clinic became the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief patient experience officer in 2007, so the position is relatively new to the industry, Haynes explained.

“It’s an important role and one that I take seriously,” he added.

In his medical staff role, Haynes serves as vice chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. As a physician-scientist, he has worked to advance the field of hearing and speech sciences and the application of cochlear implants in adults and children.

Surveys Provide Valuable Data

Hospital leaders often learn about their customers’ experiences by gathering data through surveys. Measurements for quality improvement are ongoing at VUMC, with the hospital receiving input annually from nearly 270,000 patient satisfaction surveys and more than 280,000 submitted comments.

Scores related to patient experience at VUMC improve year over year, Haynes said, with results rated “extremely positive” now above 76 percent. The positive scores are attributed to, among many reasons, the new satellite clinics opened by the hospital system that allow patients to see doctors closer to their homes.

Now, however, it is often physicians who are tasked with the drive.

Is that a change always welcomed by physicians?

“No,” Haynes said. “But it’s one I embrace. I do myself because I realize its important to our patients.”

About the Expert

David Haynes, M.D.

David Haynes M.D., is chief patient experience officer (CXO) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as a professor of otolaryngology, neurosurgery and hearing and speech sciences, and vice chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.