Less than a year from now, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services value-based purchasing program takes effect. While this seems like just another newfangled scheme kicking off in the next few years designed to part your hospital from its much-needed reimbursement, that's only partly correct. Because VBP scores will be derived from both clinical quality measures (70 percent) and HCAHPS scores (30 percent), the program spotlights the human element in providing care.

In a galvanizing keynote presentation at the Center for Healthcare Governance's fall symposium, M. Bridget Duffy, M.D., CEO of ExperiaHealth and former chief experience officer for the Cleveland Clinic, told attendees to place the patient experience at the top of their hospitals' strategic priority list. Research justifies it: patient satisfaction is linked to better quality scores, fewer malpractice claims, improved market share and better reimbursement.

The next step, Duffy advised, is to create a board subcommittee on experience. This group not only will focus on the patient and family experience, but also on employee engagement. Truly engaged employees — strengthened by a culture that promotes communication, camaraderie and mutual respect — feel empowered to go out of their way to deliver compassionate care rather than, as Duffy says, "checking their souls at the door" and working from a script.

All of us have encountered both kinds of clinicians and staff during our own and our loved ones' hospital stays. Wouldn't it be great if your board's actions expanded the former category of clinicians and shrunk the latter?

Duffy will be delivering another keynote at the Center's January symposium. She's worth the trip. I have heard many terrific speakers this year, but she was the most inspiring.