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MultiCare’s Bill Robertson explains how hospitals can thrive and provide value post-COVID

NRC Health’s Patient No Longer podcast, which creates connections to drive organizational change, innovative strategies, and digital technologies, takes you into the minds of healthcare leaders and innovators who inspire a positive shift in the customer experience.

In a recent episode, “Winning the Peace: Ideas to Thrive Post-COVID,” Bill Robertson, CEO of MultiCare Health System (based in Tacoma, Washington), shares his thoughts on how healthcare leaders can reframe success after COVID with host Ryan Donohue.

Robertson explains that even though Washington was the first place COVID emerged, MultiCare worked to reaffirm and re-embrace their mission, vision, and values and recommit to creating real, tangible win-win benefits for the people they serve. They are also, he says, committed to living in the present and not losing their long-term focus—an approach they’ve called the now, near and far.

“We have been very active in our strategic agenda throughout COVID, even as we provided awe-inspiring care to the communities we serve,” Richardson says. “So it’s been a really interesting construct for us, and we think it’s served us well. Now our new construct is emerging, about how we think about winning the peace, now that COVID is in the rearview mirror.”

Restoring Hope through Mission and Vision

As the largest secular, community-based, locally governed health system in Washington State, Robertson says their organization has significant engagement around its mission, vision, and values.

“We hear from people who interview to join us in this organization that they hear from every layer in the organization about its mission,” he says. “And the values of the organization—they’re ever-present. If they’re not meaningful, why have them? So they frame everything we do.”

In terms of engaging team members, Richardson says their “Winning the Peace” construct articulates that 75% of what they’re focusing on is how to restore hope in a workforce that has experienced incredible trauma during COVID.

“How do we restore hope?” he says. “How do we engage people in a way that allows them to see a future in healthcare at MultiCare? That takes being present. The second piece of leadership is to define reality and inspire hope. We’re really proactively seeking to show up and listen. We tried to do that during COVID, but it was more difficult.

“We’re investing heavily in ensuring a pipeline of talented younger individuals who want to choose careers in healthcare,” he adds. “How do we build up that kind of capacity for our communities, which ultimately helps us meet our mission? I have this theory that a lot of patient experience is not about whether or not we have team members who are compassionate; it’s whether our systems or processes allow the care to be something that is engaging for both the people who are providing the care and for the recipient of that care.”

Identifying Five Different Customer Types That Hospitals Serve

Richardson says MultiCare’s vision is to be the Pacific Northwest’s highest value system of health, defining the highest value as their customers’ perception. He explains that in the complex ecosystem of American healthcare, MultiCare has five types of customer they serve:

  • Consumer customers: Patients, and individuals who are consumers and not patients. (In a pediatric hospital, for example, the baby is the patient and the parent is the consumer.)
  • Collegial customers: Team members, members of the medical staff, and those who work together to create healthcare delivery.
  • Collaborative customers: Partners in the community who share the same mission of serving the community—for example, United Way.
  • Corporate customers: People who decide how healthcare will be consumed by groups—for example, employers, brokers, and insurance companies.
  • Constituent customers: Those who license, accredit, regulate, or govern MultiCare.

“A consumer sees the world differently than a corporate customer,” Richardson says. “So how do we create value for both of those at the same time? It’s a lot of asking how we create the highest value for those we are privileged to serve.”

Richardson says the most important customer group is the collegial customer. “If we can’t create value for them, and with them, we’re not going to succeed with any of the other customer groups,” he says.

Learn more: Check out how MultiCare, a learning organization, does healthcare differently in this Patient No Longer episode.