Well run systems enabled by technology are going to be better at achieving the Triple Aim in healthcare: improved health of populations, improved patient experience and reduced costs. It is the mantra of progressive medicine and while the aims are simple to articulate, achieving them and measuring progress is much harder.

A key challenge in achieving the Triple Aim is understanding how to measure it. Early in my career, I heard someone say that like any assembly line that stamps out widgets, our healthcare system is a factory. It may sound bleak but basically, people go in one side and hopefully come out better on the other. But how do we measure “better?” Did we get a valuable return for our investment of time and resources? We can try to measure some returns by process: did everyone get their flu shot (and we hope) stave off greater risk and cost of having the flu? Or, we can try to measure outcomes: did a provider successfully lower an aggregate of A1Cs, the measurement of blood glucose, in her diabetic patients, thus helping prevent further complications?

Metrics like the above are staples of current measurement efforts and the result of thoughtful research. And they are very helpful to understanding the quality of the work being done. But what is the desired state to be achieved from all this work? To take the factory analogy further, we could stamp out a number of very high quality widgets, but are they the widgets we want? Process and even outcomes measurements are not targets, but coordinates to the ultimate goal, which is quality of life. And we need to build models to measure and affect patient experience with as much rigor if not more than we measure blood glucose levels.

As we’ve talked about before, the patient is a member of the care team. How the patient chooses to engage in the process is a key determinant of successful outcomes. This is where science, technology, and art meet, with some of the lessons from the retail and hospitality industry thrown in. In Part 2, we’ll talk about Patient Experience: how’s it’s measured, why it matters, and what you should do about it: step by step.

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