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Missed the Symposium this year? Here are the 2021 highlights.

The 27th Annual NRC Health Symposium in Nashville was our first hybrid event, held both in-person and virtually for the first time in Symposium history!

We had the distinct pleasure to both greet attendees in person and stream the event for some of healthcare’s most prominent leaders—and while some joined and participated online, others came in person and maybe even enjoyed a honky-tonk or two afterward!

If you missed your chance to log on, you’re in luck. You can still learn from what our presenters had to say.

Here are some highlights from three presentations delivered at this year’s Symposium.


“Listening to the Rhythm of Human Understanding”

~ Helen Hrdy, Chief Growth Officer, NRC Health and and Gregory Makoul, PhD., M.S., NRC Health

For more than 20 years, Helen Hrdy has helped hundreds of healthcare organizations better know each person they serve—their behaviors, preferences, wants, and needs—and enable Human Understanding to drive loyalty within healthcare.

Hrdy was joined by Greg Makoul, an expert in doctor-patient communication and shared decision making recognized for his radical-common-sense, patient-centered approach to innovation.

“Our vision is Human Understanding. It’s a bold vision that is obviously an evolution,” Hrdy said. “We want to leverage clinical experience but often don’t include the patient in a very meaningful way. They are an expert on themselves. To get to know a patient better, we need to know what they do in the 99 percent of their lives when they’re not interacting in a healthcare environment.”

“When people feel like they are drowning, you don’t hand them a rock; you give them a lifeline,” Makoul said.

Makoul talked about how a communication assessment tool can be a real-world approach to Human Understanding, relying on stories that enable unique connections between patients and care givers.

“You don’t go to medical school to have faster transactions,” Makoul said. “Providers went into medical school to help people, heal relationships, and feel good about what they are doing.” Using the communication assessment tool, the medical community has told Makoul, “This is why I went into medicine.”


“The Future of Public Health: Learning from COVID-19 and Striving for Health Equity”

~ Leana Wen, M.D. MSc FAAEM

Dr. Leana Wen is an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. A non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, she is also a contributing columnist for The Washington Post and a commentator for CNN as a medical analyst. The former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore is also the author of the newly released “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”

Dr. Wen noted that public health has saved your life, though you don’t know it—it has prevented something disastrous from occurring, and impacts your health every day. And in a sense, we tend to see it the wrong way, she said. “We have prevented an outcome, but there is no face of this.”

COVID-19 unveiled widespread disparities in our social system, including unequal housing, income, employment, and access to food. “In this case, it’s not the virus doing the discriminating,” Dr. Wen said. “Not everyone has the privilege of social distancing. Disparities don’t go away on their own.”

“Make a difference and intervene where you can,” Dr. Wen said, outlining five specific takeaways:

  1. Increasing vaccination rates are the best and only way out of the pandemic, so we should work to overcome barriers for people and continue the important conversations that lead to vaccination.
  2. We must recognize that healthcare and public health are on the brink and that the issues that were a crisis before the pandemic have not gone away.
  3. We need to get rid of healthcare disparities across the board—and for every health goal we have, we need to develop an equity metric.
  4. We can’t leave the most vulnerable behind when we make innovations, so we should be intentional about interventions.
  5. We must focus on the social determinants of health, not just healthcare issues, because 90% of how well people live concerns factors outside of the care they receive, especially food, housing, and access.

“From Concept to Reality: CX Management at Orlando Health—Moving into the Driver’s Seat”

~ Ken Kozielski, Vice President, Customer Experience, Orlando Health

Ken Kozielski is responsible for defining and activating a differentiated model of healthcare experience across the continuum of care for Orlando Health’s patients, caregivers, and families. As Vice President of Customer Experience for Orlando Health, he provides vision, direction, and counsel for the organization’s leaders and team members.

Kozielski presented three principles for moving into the driver’s seat regarding the patient experience: think differently, measure differently, and act differently.

Think Differently

  1. Elevate your definition of success. If you aim for the lowest common denominator, the best you can hope to achieve is the best lowest common denominator. “Find out what makes you special and different, and be successful,” Kozielski said.
  2. Create eureka moments. People will be more likely to subscribe to a new idea if they think they were the ones to think of it first. As an example, Kozielski brought up an initiative at Orlando Health in which they built a specific methodology with maps and visual metaphors. As team members reacted to the visual metaphors, they came to conclusions on their own. As teams were guided through the visual metaphors, they began to think about patient engagement as their own idea. “Make a splash and a memory,” Kozielski said. “Those people will think back to that eureka moment.”
  1. Build on your strengths. Kozielski pointed out that it’s easier to get better at the things you already do well than to try to excel at the things you don’t. “We aren’t going to accelerate in transformation until we can focus on the strengths that uniquely identify as a passion for us.”

Act Differently

  1. Get up on the bridge. Solving for root causes and fixing processes are much more scalable operations than rescuing individual casualties. Kozielski used a metaphor to challenge leaders to see the big picture and solve a root problem, rather than running to the one-off issue and trying to solve that.
  2. Go all in. It’s not good enough to point out an opportunity. Processes, systems, and accountability must be reimagined to bring a given experience to life. Orlando Health has a team of 35 cross-disciplinary executives who meet to reimagine touchpoints along the customer journey and extend that previous Eureka moment. They take six months to train on documenting and reimaging the experience, breaking up ten workstreams of the customer journey. They’re currently piloting those experiences, with the goal of making them enterprise standards in the future. “They are owning it and taking it out there, giving us a huge opportunity,” Kozielski said.
  3. Commit to discipline and rigor. It’s important to follow best practices for customer journey mapping, reimagining, piloting, testing, and scaling. Kozielski says leaders are often pressured with financial and other quantifiable measures; when piloting the new program at Orlando Health, the organization’s leaders were committed to measuring impact against business outcomes. So they needed to be shown the numbers. So far, their pilot program has found 80% more interventions in discharge, while increasing pharmacy sales by 60% and having 90% fewer next-day callbacks. “Measuring discipline and rigor is a recipe for success to persuade leaders driven by evidence-based design and quantifiable results.”

Measure Differently

  1. No pressure, no diamonds. What gets measured gets done—and drives measures into accountability. Recognizing that, Kozielski says to get your mile markers and goals right, and be sure to measure and incentivize strengths. “What is the strength of your organization?” he asked. “What unique principles stand out that people have a passion for? That’s your patient-experience goal.”
  2. Get to know your customers. Build insights to better know the people with whom you seek to build a relationship. “The goal is a relationship to earn trust to guide them to the next step in care and deliver on the promise,” Kozielski said. “And we aren’t going to earn their trust unless we know who they are.”
  3. Patients are customers too. Healthcare customers make decisions to engage with our services, just as they do with other industries—and Kozielski’s last thought concerned turning insight into foresight. “Good stewardship of insights anticipates opportunity and speaks the truth,” he said, reminding healthcare executives that patient-experience leaders aren’t just team statisticians; they’re the ones with the secret weapons!

Make sure to not miss next year’s Symposium, Register Now!