Patient experience, though, is not improved in a sustainable fashion very quickly, and hospital executives are under pressure to goose their patient satisfaction scores. “I’ve been at places where they pound their fists and say ‘Fix these scores!’” said panelist Lisa Allen, CXO for Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

A survey conducted by Vocera, a healthcare communications company, demonstrates how among the 104 CXOs surveyed earlier this year that their two greatest priorities, when asked to name three, can be at cross-purposes. The top priority for 64 percent of the survey respondents was to “create/improve our experience culture,” a longer-term task, and for 63 percent, the top priority was to improve patient experience scores, which has a more short-term focus.

Rick Evans, senior vice president and CXO for the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, said the stress of improving patient satisfaction scores sends some people “over the edge” and doesn’t meet patient needs. “If we can create confidence and the feeling of being in good hands, the satisfaction takes care of itself,” Evans said.

Similarly, attendee Calandra Branch, Planetree coordinator and director of operations at New York-Presbyterian’s Westchester Division, said in an interview, “I’d like to believe that this is not driven only be HCAHPS. She added, “We need to maintain quality because, as they said, by having a great patient experience, the scores will follow.”

The CXO role has evolved since it was first created at the Cleveland Clinic in 2007 and is extending into staff satisfaction. “Improve physician and staff experience” which was listed as a top-three priority by 44 percent of respondents in the Vocera survey, and was third-highest on the list. Evans noted that addressing staff burnout and stress is the biggest challenge he faces. “I’ve never seen people so at the end of their wits,” he said, adding that burnout served as “a major headwind” against making progress in improving patient experience. One way some are trying to counteract feelings of burnout is by having physicians tell stories of compassion.

“We have to look at how we can let our caregivers enjoy what they do,” said Lynn Skoczelas, R.N., CXO for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.