It happened to me - first came a tingling in my fingers and toes; and within days, I was paralyzed. A husband and father of two young children at the start of a new assignment with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company - I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition in which a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system attacks and temporarily damages the peripheral nervous system. Suddenly, and for 90 days and nights, I was 100% dependent on my doctors, nurses and therapists.
Believe it or not, I’m actually grateful for this experience, as it showed me that as a patient, you are challenged to heal in many ways – physically, mentally, and emotionally. My experience in these moments helped me understand the power of embedding both service and empathy into the clinical processes that truly can make or break a patient or family experience. Every moment counts.
My years at The Ritz-Carlton opened my perspective to what guests really want – and it’s much more than crystal chandeliers, marble floors and fancy ocean views. The Ritz-Carlton takes culture very seriously and believes it should be fully ingrained in all its employees, even by memorization. This credo provided the gold standards of service that were the focus of my everyday work, and until this day I can recite each word.
The Ritz-Carlton Credo: The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience. The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
Based on my own professional and personal healthcare experiences, and as the Chief Experience Officer at Northwell Health, I knew I had to look at the experience through a very different lens. We have seen that the hospitality industry has established a precedent of best practices that can directly correlate to the healthcare industry. Let’s take the crossover themes from this credo for example: providing genuine care and comfort, personalization, a warm yet refined environment, and delivering on unexpressed wishes. I often wondered what this same credo would look like if ‘Ritz-Carlton’ was replaced with ‘Healthcare’, and if ‘guests’ were replaced with ‘patients’.
Let’s read the credo again…
The Healthcare Credo: Healthcare is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our patients is our highest mission. We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our patients who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience. The Healthcare experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our patients.
Now, isn’t this what we all want and deserve from our own healthcare experience? It’s not only about first impressions; it’s about lasting impressions and creating that consistency in the patient experience. As experience leaders, it is imperative we understand how to enliven all the senses – what patients see, hear, touch, taste and feel. This understanding can greatly affect the patient experience, as well as the overall healing process.
At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that healthcare is about helping people through their most vulnerable time, and there is no greater honor. So, I challenge each of you to think about healthcare differently. Reflect on this healthcare credo and ask how you can translate these concepts into practice to truly make every moment matter.
Sven Gierlinger serves as the VP, Chief Experience Officer at Northwell Health. With a focus on providing exceptional customer service and delivering the highest quality care, Mr. Gierlinger is responsible for building an engaging, innovative and collaborative culture that drives organizational growth and customer loyalty through the patient/customer experience. He is also an Executive Board Member for the Beryl Institute and a member of the Institute for Innovation, Founding Executive Council. Northwell Health, headquartered in New Hyde Park, New York, is the largest healthcare provider and private employer in New York State. The system serves over 8 million patients in metro New York and the surrounding areas with its 22 hospitals and more than 550 outpatient practices.