The field can’t be shy about working to ensure that a patient’s experience is as positive as can be while under a hospital’s care.

Patients, with more choices and more of their own money at stake, are demanding a more customer-friendly experience, and payers are rewarding providers for keeping patients satisfied. Plus, more satisfied patients are going to be more engaged in their care and for that reason more likely to be healthier

That’s much of the thinking behind an effort in Virginia to boost the patient experience at the commonwealth’s hospitals. Through an initiative called the VHHA Center for Healthcare Excellence, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association and its affiliated Virginia Hospital Research & Education Foundation are focused on assisting member hospitals in achieving top-tier quality, safety and service.

““One of the things our association and our members, as directed by the board, are trying to achieve is to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation by 2020,” says Julian Walker, vice president of communications at the VHHA.

As part of that, the center just released a video laced with patient stories and provider insights from four hospitals on the importance of the patient experience. In the video, called “Compassionate Healing in Virginia,” Toni Ardabell, CEO of Bon Secours Richmond Health System, describes the approach hospital clinicians and staff should be taking. “We should treat the patient as if we’re walking into their house, instead of them walking into our house,” Ardabell says. “We should make this the patient’s home while they’re here,” she says.

Don’t assume that because a structure is in place at your hospital to address the patient experience that more can’t be done. A Beryl Institute report from last August includes data indicating that while 83 percent of U.S. hospitals have a formal structure for addressing the patient experience, just 58 percent have a formal mandate or mission for patient experience and 47 percent have a formal definition of it.

And good HCAHPS scores aren’t necessarily a guarantee that your patient experience is positive in all ways, says a report from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. HCAHPS doesn’t measure such things as a patient’s understanding of a bill or the quality of food.

Maximizing patient experience, then, will take more than an HCAHPS-centered approach, given how much is riding on patients’ perceptions of their care.

“The bottom line is that in no greater way has patient experience mattered than it does at this very moment,” said Jason Wolf, president of Beryl, in a news release on its report.

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