MARCH 2011 MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
Director Organizational Development and Corporate Service Officer
WHAT ARE YOUR KEY RESPONSIBILITIES?
As the Corporate Service Officer, my primary responsibility is to work with executive leadership, managers, physicians and front line staff to develop and implement strategies for building a service and patient-centered culture.
I oversee the patient experience surveys, service recovery, service education, development of patient-family advisory councils and work closely with Human Resources to ensure our service expectations of employees are integrated into job responsibilities and performance evaluations.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I would have to say my most significant accomplishment is perseverance and constancy of purpose! My position at WellSpan began 18 years ago when we were just York Hospital. At that time, leadership was just becoming curious about the need to focus on service and patient-centered wasn’t a word they were familiar with. We rapidly grew to an organization employing over 8500; with two hospitals—soon to be three, an extensive network of ambulatory services including treatment and diagnostic services and a medical group of primary and specialty practices, home health, retail pharmacies and managed care plans spread over two counties of south central Pennsylvania. Up until three years ago, I was a one-person service department. We now have a Service Education Specialist, a dedicated position for home health and individuals at both hospitals to coordinate our improvement initiatives.
In the last three years, we went through a re-energizing of our service strategies with the goal to create common approaches across WellSpan. We developed a new service education process focused on caring communication skills. We established System policies for how we measure the patient experience and manage service recovery. Most recently, we created a Patient and Family Advisory Council Steering Committee and developed a WellSpan Guide for Patient and Family Collaboratives as a resource for our managers, staff and physicians.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU ARE CURRENTLY FACING?
Wow, there are so many challenges today! There’s so much attention on value based purchasing. Tying reimbursement to our patient experience performance has definitely attracted healthcare leaders’ attention. However, the interest in improving HCAHPS indicators to reach the necessary achievement and improvement scores can take attention away from seeking to understand what might be most important to a patient’s experience like emotional support, coordination, access, or even family involvement which aren’t addressed in the HCAHPS survey.
We all feel a lot of pressure with demands to try new procedures, work around systems that aren’t coordinated, learn new technologies, keep up standard competencies, learn new skills, and on and on. Well-meaning staff and physicians get overtaxed and lose sight of the patient’s anxieties. I remember sitting in my father’s hospital room shortly after he was told that he was dying of stomach cancer. A nurse was checking the five different lines feeding in or out of his body when another nurse came rushing in and grabbed the arm of the nurse taking care of him and said, "We just got five new admits for tonight. How are we ever going to take care of all these patients?” I sat stunned and when they left, my father who was normally stubbornly strong, said to my mother, "I want you to stay with me tonight.” That was twelve years ago, yet I still hear similar stories. It’s difficult for managers to hold people accountable for behaviors like this. They are emotionally connected to what the staff are experiencing and are more readily accepting of a slip in tone or words. For some, it’s not the same as falling short with a clinical competency.
I’ve been in healthcare for 27 years and every year I hear about all the growing demands and pressures on people. It’s unlikely that will change. Despite this, we’ve advanced our performance in many ways when it comes to the patient experience. But, it’s been slow progress. We need to learn to be more nimble with change, quickly respond to correct broken processes and systems, and remain constant to doing what’s right for the patient.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS OF THE FUTURE IN ADDRESSING PATIENT EXPERIENCE?
We’re currently in the midst of a ten-year strategic plan. Leaders are reflecting on our organization’s mission, vision and values. We are scrutinizing things like clinical performance, population management, market strategy, human resources, how we leverage our electronic health record and how we give attention to the voice of our customer. Healthcare reform is the wild card. How will our future healthcare consumers choose a provider? Will it be based on cost alone or value driven?
It’s taken us longer than some organizations, but we have learned to engage patients and their families in improvement initiatives. Patient-Family Advisory Councils are popping up across our organization focusing on patient education, inpatient care, chronic care, home care and specific populations like trauma, cardiovascular, and behavioral health. I’m confident that these collaborations will open up many opportunities for improvement and will help to keep us attentive to what is important to the patient experience.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN WHEN NOT FOCUSING ON THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE?
Coming home after a hectic day, I find cooking to be a great relaxer. It completely shifts my thinking and takes me to a different place. In the winter, my favorite spot is in front of the fireplace with a good book. When the weather warms, you’ll find me in the gardens or just sitting outside taking in the summer sights and smells. I’m a lover of Irish Setters and we just rescued two in June—that makes six over 35 years. You have to love them to have them in your life…they aren’t for the idle…and they don’t help much in the gardens, either!
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE BERYL INSTITUTE?
Knowing that The Beryl Institute is a sister organization of The Beryl Companies led me to believe this would be a worthwhile membership. I’m looking forward to networking with others and am excited to be presenting at the upcoming Patient Experience Conference in April.