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‘From customer-aware to customer-led’ — Data-driven employee engagement at Community Health Network

Published here at Becker’s Hospital Review. 


In healthcare, finding a comprehensive human vision is hard enough. But rallying an organization behind such a vision can be an even bigger challenge.

Motivating employees to realize full, human relationships with every stakeholder — from patients to coworkers and the broader community at large — requires much more than a verbal mandate from management. For an ethos of empathy to stick, organizational operations have to accommodate it. The bigger and more complicated the organization, the harder this change will be.

This challenge was not lost on leaders at Community Health Network (CHN), an organization in central Indiana with 200 sites of care and over two million patient encounters every year. Despite the scope of the challenge, leaders ambitiously envisioned focusing on a more human experience for every aspect of their organization.

They called their approach “Human Experience 2020.” For the customer-service aspect of this initiative, they were confident in their strategic direction. But they knew that if their vision was to endure, they’d need to take a comprehensive approach. They’d have to bring the voice of the customer into every facet of CHN’s operations.

“We wanted to go from being customer-aware to being customer-led,” said Tom Malasto, CHN’s SVP and chief patient experience officer.

Here’s how they used NRC Health’s comprehensive voice-of-the-customer (VOC) platform to systematically reinforce Human Experience 2020 across the entire organization.

Humanity in the care experience

Efforts began with clinical care.

Quantitative feedback data had shown that for the most part, CHN’s providers already gave patients an outstanding experience. While any organization relishes such validation, it didn’t offer CHN’s leadership much direction for meaningful improvement.

Clinicians needed to see qualitative data, in the form of patient comments. They were able to field these comments thanks to one part of the VOC platform — Real-time feedback.

Real-time solicits open-ended comments from patients and allows providers to see them within hours of the patient’s appointment. This gives clinicians a vital opportunity to hone their nonclinical care skills.

At CHN, clinicians took patients’ comments to heart and used what they saw to improve their care. Within just three months after Real-time’s deployment, positive ratings for “Communication with nurses” went from 82.2 percent to 84.7 percent, and “Communication with doctors” from 80.4 percent to 84.6 percent.

Humanity in post-discharge follow-up

Of course, care doesn’t stop after an appointment ends. Recognizing this, CHN’s leaders wanted Human Experience 2020 to extend well past the clinical encounter, to ensure patients felt enduring compassion from their providers. But like most organizational leaders, they were overwhelmed by the logistical challenge their immense volumes presented.

A second part of the VOC platform, Care Transitions, overcomes this obstacle by automatically reaching out to 100 percent of patients immediately after discharge. CHN used it to contact 122,731 patients, identifying about 19,000 who could benefit from additional clinical support.

The organization’s talented post-discharge team resolved 95 percent of these alerts — and garnered 12,054 compliments for CHN’s emergency staff in the process.

Humanity in external communications

A sense of cohesion is critical to the success of any culture change. That’s why a central tenant of the Human Experience 2020 philosophy was that it should extend to every touchpoint
that patients have with CHN, including preclinical encounters. If Human Experience 2020 was to be taken seriously, marketing and branding would have to reflect a genuine understanding of their patient community.

Market Insights, a third segment of the VOC platform, became an indispensable tool. The solution is the country’s largest healthcare consumer database, with respondents in more than 310,000 households. CHN used Market Insights to hone in on a messaging strategy that would resonate with Indiana’s consumers.

The marketing team had, for instance, come up with a slogan for CHN’s 3D mammography program: “Whether you’re a 28A or a 46C, you can count on us to be 3D.” They wanted to see if, besides being clever, the slogan would reach their audience.

Market Insights validated their work. Before viewing the ad, 49 percent of consumers reported that they would consider going to CHN for mammography. After viewing, that number surged to 60 percent. One respondent even noted, “I have a mammography scheduled somewhere else, but after viewing this ad I’m going to try and switch.”

Results like that reassured CHN’s leaders that they had found the cohesion they were looking for.

Still more to learn

Perhaps the most important feature of the VOC platform is its comprehensiveness. It encompasses every facet of the patient experience, delivering global insights that organizations can use to continuously refine care. And valuable as all of the above has been for CHN, it is by no means the limit of what they’ve learned.

“We’re on a journey to become a customer-obsessed company, and NRC Health’s voice-of-the-customer platform is a key tool we’re using to do that,” said Ron Thieme, CHN’s VP and chief experience officer. “We need to be intimately familiar with our customers, and NRC Health’s solutions are critical for getting us there.”

See how organizations are achieving the understanding they desire at nrchealth.com/customers/.