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How this patient-experience physician brought Human Understanding to a Texas hospital network

With the healthcare industry still reeling under the coronavirus pandemic, industry professionals are working overtime to ideate and innovate—not only to find a vaccine, but more importantly, to provide excellent patient care during these uncertain times and beyond.

As our healthcare heroes continue this work, we wanted to recognize one in particular who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to care for his patients and realize NRC Health’s mission to bring human understanding into healthcare.

For the first part of our Human Understanding series, we sat down with Dr. Tim Kremer, senior vice president and chief physician-engagement officer at JPS Health Network, after he was named the first-ever winner of the Excellence in Human Understanding Award during our annual Symposium last month. Dr. Kremer partnered with the patient-experience team at JPS to build community among the organization’s caregivers and improve patient experience and clinician engagement in the process. He divulged some details about how this work, and ultimately this recognition, came to fruition.

What does winning this award mean to you?

To be recognized and embraced by the patient experience community is extremely exciting to me because I still consider myself a novice and have so much to learn from others in the field. It was probably two and a half years ago when our CEO Robert Earley asked me to take on the role of chief medical officer. It was not an opportunity I was anticipating, but I ended up taking the position because I was excited about the possibility of really building a community among the physician medical staff and getting them more engaged in the organization. It


See Dr. Kremer’s acceptance speech at the Award ceremony.

was the leadership, support, and vision of our CEO that guided me into my present position that is focused on clinician engagement and patient experience. In exploring a new roadmap for JPS to accomplish this goal, I developed a partnership with the patient-experience team to create and support excellence from our staff.  In a time when the threat of physician burnout is becoming increasingly critical, I’m realizing the antidote to that is not some special wellness activity or resilience training. It really is enhancing the day-to-day life of physicians, in terms of how they care for patients. This award from NRC is such an honor and validates that our efforts at JPS are making a meaningful difference in our patients and our clinicians.

While I was a part of this shift and contributed to it, the magic really was the group effort, where about four or five of us had this intuitive grasp of what we could accomplish. It was in these conversations that we developed a strategic plan to better engage clinicians and enhance the knowledge of communication tactics and behaviors associated with patient-centered care. I often use the phrase, “Physician engagement is the patient experience,” and our organization has been able to fully emulate that statement in their work.

How did you come to a better understanding of the patient experience through this effort?

 It comes down to understanding the value of the patient experience, and how that fits into everything else within the organizational roadmap. I think that was the big shift for me—having a conversation about what it really means to be fully committed to a human-centered experience.

As I reflected, I realized I was pretty physician-centric with a focus on patients, rather than having a truly patient-centric view. While I have always considered myself a dedicated advocate for my patients, I had to undergo personal growth before I could have an impact on others. It was not until I stepped away from the operational aspects of my job that I began to see the real impact we could have in developing and promoting the human-centric approach to patient care. It has taken me a long time to realize that if you really want to be patient-centric and human-centric, you have to embrace the patient experience along with the concept of human understanding. It doesn’t invalidate your role as a physician; it simply enhances your perspective of what you can deliver to someone you’re taking care of.

When we created our mastery course in patient experience at JPS, it was critically important that we focused on the why of human-centered care. Because human-centered care is about doing the right things in the right moments, I was confident that if we focused on what mattered most the patient satisfaction scores would follow. I had this confidence because I knew the incredible dedication and passion that my colleagues have for their patients and the mission of JPS Health Network.  While we are clearly trying to improve patient-satisfaction metrics at JPS, we mention data only once during our 10-session course. I’m happy to report that our approach has worked for the first 3 groups that we have taken through the course, with improvement in patient-satisfaction metrics for almost every participant.

What inspires you to apply human understanding to your work every day?

Over the last decade I’ve gotten the privilege to work with incredible people in a variety of settings. I’ve been involved in medical student and resident education, worked as member of our executive team, and served as a medical staff leader. One day I’m in the operating room, the next I’m in the clinic, and the next I’m in meetings. I like that every day I get up and my day looks a little bit different. At the same time, the continuity of patient care is probably one of the biggest satisfactions I get from the job. While my greatest passion is being in the operating room with the residents and teaching surgery, it would be incomplete if I didn’t get to see the patients before and after surgery and follow them all the way through.

It’s fulfilling to be able to share what I’ve learned with residents, about how to truly value the full care journey. It’s more than just the technical expertise. I’ve always enjoyed working with resident physicians more than with other groups, because I know I’m imparting lessons to them that they’re going to use. And by influencing their careers, I have the opportunity to impact every patient they interact with.

I’m now translating those efforts to what we’re doing at JPS with our patient-experience work. It makes me proud to think about that scenario eight years from now, where one of the physicians we’re training today has to have a difficult conversation with a patient, and they handle it in a different and better way because of what they’re learning now through our program. Knowing that I can have that kind of positive influence on others is truly an honor in and of itself.

Lastly, I have to give special mention to Lara Burnside, our Senior Vice-President of Strategy and Chief Experience Officer. She has been an incredible partner on this journey. She has had such a personal impact on me in terms of applying human understanding to healthcare that I have to share this award with her

We are proud to recognize Dr. Kremer for his outstanding commitment to human understanding at JPS Health Network.

Is there someone at your organization who has inspired human understanding within your organization? How have they improved the overall patient experience? We want to hear about it! Share your human understanding story with us by emailing Megan Charko, our senior content marketing manager, at to schedule your interview today.