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Executive Q&A with EVP and CNO Nancy Littlefield, Riverside Health System

Executive Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Littlefield, DNP, MSHA, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC


In an industry facing so much upheaval, it’s tempting to focus on the threats. Health leaders can be forgiven if the recent moves by Amazon or CVS/Aetna occupy their thoughts. But as this installment of Executive Q&A reveals, these times are rife with opportunities as well—as long as organizations have the foresight to seize them.

Nancy Littlefield, DNP, is Executive Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Riverside Health System in Virginia. She shares her perspectives on the competitive pressures facing healthcare organizations today.

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Q1: How is your organization preparing to respond to the threats and opportunities emerging from the entrance of non-traditional providers, such as Amazon or CVS, into the healthcare industry?

Many ways—and we take each of those non-traditional paths for healthcare delivery seriously. We try to be proactive and strategic. We also look at it as an opportunity to look at how we are available, and delivering care—are we convenient and easy to do business with? If we aren’t, it challenges us to do it better.

Q2: How does your organization capitalize on the opportunity to break down silos within traditional healthcare?

A: Riverside is fortunate to have the whole continuum of services available for our patients—acute, home health, long-term care, wellness centers, and hospice, for example. We focus on building relationships across this continuum of care. We make significant efforts to make sure the right people are at the table to help us see the patient experience through the lens of the continuum.

Q3: In what areas do you feel your organization—and your patients—could most benefit from innovation?

A: By improving access and availability of information that our patients need to better understand or monitor their health. By providing another avenue to communicate to patients and families that helps to better connect them to the services they might need.

Q4: What are you doing to strengthen your relationship with patients in today’s consumer-driven economy?

A: This is a primary focus for Riverside. One practice we are doing is, we instituted discharge phone calls by a Registered Nurse for all our acute discharges. These calls happen 24–48 hours after a patient goes home. The team members making these calls love it almost as much as the patients receiving the calls. The focus of the call is to check in to see how they are recovering—were they able to fill their prescriptions? Were they able to get a follow-up appointment in the time that they needed? Any concerns or questions, we are able to help them.

Q5: What does being customer-obsessed mean to you?

A: “Customer-obsessed” to me is a culture where we keep the needs of our patients and their loved ones in front of us at all times. Nothing is more important to us than safe, competent, compassionate care, from the moment they enter our doors to when we are able to see them safely home.

Q6: In your opinion, how close is your organization to achieving customer obsession?

A: Customer obsession doesn’t have a finish line—it’s something we will work on in every interaction every day.

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Nancy’s take on customer obsession underscores her optimism for the future of traditional health providers. Yes, the marketplace is changing. But adaptive, empathetic organizations have nothing to fear from that—so long as they, as Nancy put it, “work on it in every interaction, every day.”

More revelatory interviews like this one will be coming as we continue our Executive Q&A series.

Are you a thoughtful executive with insights you’d like to share? We want to hear from you!

Drop us a note at mcharko@nrchealth.com and we can arrange an interview.