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Executive Q&A with Linda Givens, Patient Care Executive CNO at Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital

Strong customer loyalty not only helps organizations grow; it ensures their survival. As with any business, returning customers mean more dollars for an organization’s bottom line. For many reasons, a hospital with loyal patients is a more cost-effective business, and one with more of an opportunity to meet the expectations of their clientele. Loyal patients already know how to navigate a facility or a process. Their expectations of what kind of care or advice they will be getting were established in previous visits, and so are often easier to meet or exceed. And they create positive free publicity for the organizations that have earned their loyalty.

In this installment of Executive Q&A, hear from Linda Givens, Patient Care Executive CNO at Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital, as she shares some of her insights on what creates loyalty with the organization’s customers.

How has consumerism in healthcare changed the industry to focus on more loyalty?

When I compare healthcare to companies like Amazon or Netflix, it is really about a new generation—a Millennial generation that is now the largest cohort in the United States. In a sense, Amazon and Netflix are simply anticipating the wants and needs of their customers. That part I can relate to, and I see how that anticipation of an experience could help healthcare organizations drive more loyalty. However, healthcare experiences are different from an Amazon-style purchase or a Netflix subscription. With those kinds of consumer interactions, people are making a purchase because they want to. If I purchase a phone on Amazon, Amazon can then anticipate and recommend that I might want to purchase a phone case as well. Healthcare is different, in that it’s necessary; but the way we could do something similar in healthcare is in following up with certain diagnoses—we would know what we can recommend to our patients with chronic illnesses, for example, and can really choreograph the journey for that patient. We can take a step back and really know what we should offer a patient to help them better manage their condition. I don’t think that we do this very well, or very often, in healthcare today—and it’s not only the demand, but the expectation of our customers. Adopting a tactic similar to that kind of anticipation of needs would help our industry drive patient and customer loyalty.

What do you think about the relationship between patients being satisfied and happy with their care experiences and patients feeling loyal to an organization?

When you’re dealing with patient loyalty and patient satisfaction, you’re really dealing with anxiety. How comfortable did someone feel coming into your institution? When they were there, did you relieve their anxiety? People don’t come to the hospital because they want to; they come because they have something very serious that they have to address. How well you address their anxiety and help them through every stage of that event, of that hospitalization, is what really helps people become loyal. It may be that they feel like you saved their life, or that you helped them through a complicated transition, or even just that you understood the full scope of their situation. I think what we do is very often about relieving our customers’ anxiety, even if they didn’t realize they had it in the first place.

What is Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital doing now to make sure that you hit that emotional note?

It is said that a person can learn more from their failures than from their successes. I think it’s important to look at every single comment that we receive, even the negative comments, and really delve into what happened to give that event a negative outcome. I firmly believe that you need to look at each one of those events and find out what you can learn, then figure out the solutions to those problems and make any future experiences better moving forward, whether for that person or for others. I feel that is one way that we are trying to hit that emotional note.

I also think it has to do with helping our staff to understand that part of being a caregiver is helping reduce patients’ anxiety. How would a patient want to be treated? How would a patient want their family to be treated? We encourage our staff to understand that even something as little as introducing who you are and what you do within the organization helps to relieve anxiety, and is very important.

What role does feedback from patients play in helping clinicians improve?

Patient feedback, and the comments physicians receive, are a big part of helping clinicians improve. If a patient mentions a clinician by name, that means a lot. The clinician will feel special, like they made an impact, when a person remembers them by name. All feedback we receive helps clinicians understand the perceptions of their patients—and a lot of times people don’t know how others perceive them, so receiving this feedback is a huge gift. We also feel that it’s very important to realize that the questions that are asked within a patient survey have to do with different segments of the care experience. I think it’s important to coach your clinicians and staff on this, and to provide explanation and assistance on how to improve that experience afterward.

How is your organization connecting emotionally with your patients? Have you found a unique way to utilize patient feedback to help drive organizational improvement? If so, we want to hear about it! Contact us at mcharko@nrchealth.com to schedule your interview.