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Executive Q&A with Myrna Chang, CNE, and Rachael McKinney, CEO, at Sutter Davis Hospital

There’s no going back. Technological innovation has permanently changed what customers expect from healthcare organizations. Understandably, they want providers to match the customer service they see in other industries. They want access, they want convenience, and perhaps most of all, they want to feel empowered to make informed decisions.

Sutter Davis Hospital has heard their customers’ demands. In this installment of Executive Q&A, Myrna Chang, CNE, and Rachael McKinney, CEO, explain how Sutter Davis is adapting to meet its patients’ expectations.

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  1. What are you doing to strengthen your relationship with patients in today’s consumer-driven economy?

Today, healthcare organizations must determine how best to meet a wide range of expectations relating to patient care. Sutter Davis formulated several structures to strengthen relationships with patients and meet patient expectations. These strategies include:

  • Culture of Caring Program—All new employees and volunteers attend a four-hour orientation which introduces them to the Sutter Davis Hospital “Culture of Caring,” the behaviors that we expect them to display while at work and that help to gain a deeper understanding of a patient-centered culture.
  • Patient Family Advisors—A recent addition to Sutter Davis Hospital is our team of Patient Family Advisors (PFA). Members of the PFA are former hospital patients and/or family members of patients who volunteer their time, providing perspectives from the eyes of patients and family members. Staff and leaders at Sutter Davis Hospital consult the PFA before the implementation of new ideas and initiatives to see if patients find value in the ideas being presented or have input into ways to make the ideas better.
  • Interprofessional Council (IPC)—In our four nursing departments, Medical/Surgical/ICU Emergency Department, and Surgery and Birthing Centers, we have staff-led multi-disciplinary councils that meet regularly to collaborate on process improvements in their departments and across the hospital. Each council develops yearly service goals and monitors and reports progress. In the IPC forum, patients are invited to share their experiences while under the care of SDH staff and providers. All chairs of IPC and other discipline leaders report progress with goals and learnings from the patient interviews to the Central Council, which includes representatives from each IPC.
  1. How is your organization preparing and responding to Millennial consumers?

With the evolution of technology, communication tools, and social media, Sutter Health is evolving the way it interacts with healthcare consumers in general.

We implemented Sutter EHR, which allows ready access to patient information. Through this system, providers and staff can access information across the entire Sutter Health system, which is a powerful tool in accessing patient-health history and making care decisions.

Additionally, patients are able to access their own health records through My Health Online, which is available online or via our mobile device application. Care delivery is also evolving to better meet the needs of Millennial consumers and patients in general, with new initiatives including the implementation of Sutter Walk-In Care. Sutter Walk-In Care provides medical services for everyday illnesses and health needs such as the flu, strep throat, sprains and strains, and seasonal allergies. We also provide pre-employment and sports physicals, as well as immunizations and health screenings, and we offer wellness programs for weight loss and smoking cessation.

  1. How does your organization capitalize on the opportunity to break down silos within traditional healthcare?

Sutter Davis Hospital encourages collaboration in teams to help enhance care delivery and operations with a patient-centric focus.

Recently, as a part of our high-reliability journey, we implemented daily manager-safety huddles. Each morning for 15 minutes, all departments convene to share any safety concerns from the last 24 hours, anticipated safety concerns for the next 24 hours, and any other operational items that might require cross-functional collaboration.

Other examples we use to break down silos within the organization include the aforementioned Interdisciplinary Practice Council; our medical staff performance-improvement committee structure, which involves physicians, nursing staff, and quality and administrative leaders; and our Culture of Caring committee.

All committees operate with the objective to continue to improve the patient experience at Sutter Davis Hospital.

  1. In what areas do you feel that your organization—and your patients—could most benefit from innovation?

Sutter Health is among the leaders in healthcare innovation. Becker’s Hospital Review selected Sutter Health’s Design & Innovation team among the top American healthcare systems committed to innovation in the publication’s newly released list of “58 Hospitals and Health Systems With Innovation Programs.”

Led by Chief Innovation Officer Chris Waugh, the team embraces a human-centered design approach that encourages Sutter to develop new product and service experiences, forge strategic partnerships with cutting-edge startups and technology companies, and help create a culture of innovation across the organization.

At SDH specifically, we have been on our Lean Journey for almost two years, with the goals of improving throughput and efficiency, eliminating waste in our processes, and improving the overall patient experience. Cross-functional teams thinking outside the box on how to maximize our resources for the good of the patient is exciting to watch. We continue to work to encourage problem-solving at the front lines, where staff members know best how decisions impact workflow and patient experience.

Continued enhancement in the delivery of care through means such as telemedicine is another area where we can continue to benefit our patients through innovation.

Recently, we implemented telepsychiatry at Sutter Davis, and we continue to evaluate ways to further enhance our patients’ experiences through innovative care-delivery models.

  1. Why is it important for healthcare providers and executives to embrace transparency?

Technology has afforded us the opportunity to obtain almost any piece of information we desire at the tips of our fingers. It is no different with healthcare, and patients research their doctors and hospitals using a variety of online tools. It is important that we as health systems proactively share our data on quality, cost, and service in order to demonstrate transparency and gain trust with our patients.

With our employees, we believe that being transparent enhances engagement and employee retention. At Sutter Davis Hospital, we conduct quarterly round-the-clock rounding with all departments to share information with the front-line staff and encourage dialogue with senior leaders.

We also hold an annual All-Staff Assembly to highlight priorities and progress, as well as celebrate our accomplishments. SDH staff are also encouraged to share ideas and express concerns via our online “Ask the A-Team” forum, which allows them to submit questions to the administrative team. All responses are shared online with all employees within a few days.

  1. What is one piece of advice you can share with health-system boards or leaders to get them started down a path to make their care delivery more customer-centric?

To start, it is of utmost importance to discover, develop and nurture your core values and company culture to be patient-centric. At SDH, our Culture of Caring defines who we are and what we expect from all employees, physicians, and volunteers as relates to the patient experience. When everyone is on the same page from the beginning, being customer-centric is not just an initiative or a goal, but a part of what makes your organization thrive.

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Rachael and Myrna correctly observed what healthcare customers want to see. They understand that transparency is table-stakes for the modern patient, which is why “it is important that we as health systems proactively share our data.” That position points to how the team at Sutter Davis is anticipating their patients’ desires, not just reacting to them. Their attitude is one every health system could benefit from.

How do you think health systems should adapt to changing customer demands? Are you a healthcare leader strategizing for survival in the modern competitive landscape? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch at mcharko@nrchealth.com to set up a time to interview.