Episode #167: A Master Class in Humanizing the Healthcare Experience – with John Boerstler, Chief Veterans Experience Officer, Dept of Veterans Affairs


This interview should be required listening for every chief experience officer, every marketing officer, every chief medical officer and every chief executive officer in American healthcare. 

Why? Because – when benchmarked against other public and private healthcare systems the VA outperforms on patient experience and consumer trust metrics. 

And, if you want to understand ‘how’ – listen to this interview. I would suggest listening to it more than once – to capture the principles, strategies and tactics that John and his colleagues are deploying to achieve a world-class healthcare experience.  Keep in mind that the VA provides care to over 9 million Veterans annually, at over 150 hospital-based medical centers and over 1400 ambulatory centers.

We cover so many profound topics, but here are a few:

  1. In 2016, the VA instituted a ‘Trust Index’ comprising 3 major domains.  They are one of the few healthcare systems across the country that have focused on restoring trust in American healthcare – and have seen remarkable improvements as a result of this focus.
  2. In addition to the Trust Index, they have also constructed a ‘Social-Drivers-of-Health’ framework which identifies these issues at every patient visit; and is also used to construct collaborative solutions with non-VA community-based organizations across the country.
  3. The VA Experience Office has collaborated with the VA Whole Health Initiative to define ‘well-being’ from patients’ and employees’ perspective, and to create wellness programs.
  4. The VA has engaged in journey mapping, service blueprints, and numerous other qualitative and quantitative research – across dozens of service lines. They use this information to train their employees in delivering a world-class healthcare experience.
  5. The emphasis on provider and employee experience is profound. In addition to their quarterly ‘V-signals’ (Veteran) patient experience surveys; they also have quarterly ‘E-signals’ – employee experience surveys.  

This is one of many interviews I’ve conducted that demonstrates how far ahead the VA system is in so many respects. The VA is a hidden gem in the American healthcare system. 

There are so many pearls of wisdom and sophisticated approaches that are shared in this interview.  My hope is that it reaches the audience that needs to hear them.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD