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When Health and Care Connect, Your Patients Benefit with a Better Experience

By Eric Barber, M.H.A., President & Chief Executive Officer, Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital

There’s an adage about wishing there was a story for every time something happened. In healthcare, stories are what individuals relate to and are one way to drive engagement. The stories we tell embrace the human element. It’s how we relate and identify with others both similar and different from ourselves. It’s one way that health and care connect. And in healthcare, there are lots of stories.

The stories communicated often relate what is important, influence the items we prioritize, and shape the culture of an organization. It’s what makes the interior of the workplace unique. At Mary Lanning Healthcare , stories abound of telling children they can be superheroes, giving them capes, and letting them feel powerful as the masters of the world—as a distraction to staples in the Emergency Department. Children are given teddy bears and shown first an intravenous peripheral line procedure, before it’s done on them, so the unexpected becomes known. In ways like this, health and care become connected.

Before there can be stories, there’s the organizational culture and the way work gets done. The organizational culture is what sets the organization apart from others down the road; it creates loyalty and it’s why a parent will drive two hours to reach a specific facility. It’s the reason employees seek to be part of particular thriving organizations, and why they may opt not to apply elsewhere when looking at options. When organizations focus on doing the right thing with consistency every time, the patient experience is elevated as a result. Similarly with culture, when it’s healthy, thriving, and fostered it becomes the foundation of multiple other aspects within the organization, giving it the roots to grow exponentially. Culture is important—and it often doesn’t get the focused attention that it deserves. Ensuring the right culture is the organizational compass for moral behaviors, ethical actions, and how we go about the work being done.

Consistency, accountability, and alignment as must-haves for world-class engagement

Organizations that have a healthy culture focus on consistency, accountability, and organizational alignment. It’s not just an action, but a mantra—and a must-have for better patient experience. At Mary Lanning, due to continued perseverance by top leadership and down through all levels of the organization, focusing on these three elements has led to increases in patient satisfaction, improvements in patient safety, and a direct impact to the bottom line—to such an extent that their net revenue has grown by more than 50% over the past three years.

What are some ways to promote the adoption of consistency, accountability, and alignment within an organization?


  1. Examine the culture. That’s where the organizational foundation starts. Top leadership must be aware of what’s happening as much as they’re embracing the change. And if it’s not working—unless it’s fixed—that’s the culture that will be fostered.
  2. Adopt initiatives that encourage simplicity in processes, that can be easily remembered by staff, and promote hardwiring of behaviors so that changes are sustained (e.g., AIDET). If something is a “must-have”, it should be consistently performed. At Mary Lanning, every leader meeting starts with a story related to patient safety. It involves promoting and hardwiring behaviors into the organizational fabric as the expectation of how things are done and the ways that staff overcome obstacles to providing safe and efficient care.


  1. Having clear expectations, elevating desired attitudes (or, by default, not addressing undesirable behaviors) and creating a leadership and medical staff that has a strong sense of ownership is necessary for accountability. Each of these items needs to be an expectation and promoted to being consistent and frequent behaviors within the organization.
  2. At Mary Lanning, “Accountability” is a three-pronged approach of peer-to-peer, team, and family. At the 23rd Annual NRC Health Symposium on August 6–8, Eric Barber, President and CEO of Mary Lanning, will actively engage attendees in a presentation and discussion about how they can use this new approach to drive clinical outcomes and patient safety.


  1. Connections ought to be readily evident between what’s happening within the organization as the priority and the Strategic Plan. Leaders, clinicians, and all staff within the organization must have a clear picture of how everything relates to the more global picture what’s important to the organization and the micro level of how the work gets done.
  2. Not only should alignment be embedded in evidence-based practices, but everything should be consistently moving in the same direction. When that happens, the metrics move similarly. That’s why regularly reviews of the metrics must occur in tandem with accountability and consistency—it ensures that the desired results are being achieved for those items deemed important, and that resources, projects, and initiatives are aligned to the priorities outlined in the strategic plan.

Culture is important. It’s what sets an organization apart in a time of change and complexity. It attracts the patients, consumers, and talent that you want to retain during times of growth and nurture for organizational stability. In the right culture, revenue grows, complications decrease, workforce members are highly engaged, readmissions are reduced, and patient outcomes thrive to become best-in-class. While all essential, this can only happen when health and care connect.

To learn about Mary Lanning’s journey of connecting health and care toward achieving the goal of exceptional outcomes, register for the Patient X Summit on June 6 and attend Eric Barber’s session.