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The power of personal connections to build resilience and inspire trust

Bryan Mills, CEO of Community Health Network, doesn’t hide in the executive wing. He walks the halls, meets new employees in person, and understands patients and their families because he, too, is a patient and supporting family member. He also loves to think completely differently about what “experience” means in healthcare.

In the latest NRC Health Patient No Longer podcast, host Ryan Donohue discusses PX, workforce, and consumerism with Mills from the CEO’s perspective. Mills’ powerful observations show the value of transparency in communication to build personal connections that create joy and optimism for the future.

“I’m hopeful every day. I believe that we are embracing the changes in the world. We’re embracing the improvements in science and how we treat various things. I would not have hope if suddenly, I thought, we’ve learned all we can learn about medicine, what we can do about health, and this is as good as it’s going to get,” Mills says. “It continues to change. And we’ve got to be ready to change daily as well. We have got to meet people where they are. This is all about relationships. This is all about trust. This is all about ‘what can I do to help you?’”

Mills understands that the better healthcare systems can connect with consumers and understand who they are and how they want to engage, the better they will infuse trust in their brand. For Community Health Network, his vision is to help serve consumers in whatever they need. Mill’s invitation to connect with new employees to come and talk is just one of the ways he connects with as many people as possible.

“Since I have no reason to be in a hospital, I can’t do anything, but I can go visit people. So, I visit people almost daily. Someone will call me and say, ‘Hey, my mom’s in here, my sister is, or my brother. And I make sure when I do that I park as far at our facilities, as far away as possible. That means I might walk through so many different employees on the way to my destination. And it gives me a chance to say hi, talk to them, and introduce myself,” he says.

This open approach has served this community leader well—he believes consumer complaints should be heard and addressed within 48 hours and that the hospital should be constantly available for communications, whether for scheduling appointments, explaining a bad experience, or answering questions.

“I think a lot of times when people call me and I call them back, they’re stunned. I’m not calling to have a debate. I’m calling to understand what they’re looking for and why. And I think when they know somebody’s listening, and if not just me, it matters. It’s about our culture.”

Mills knows that being openly engaging with patients and employees develops trust.

“At the core of where we are is people serving people. I think that’s what we’ve got to have at the forefront of this. And we must be willing to be vulnerable to have those conversations. The better we know and trust each other, the better we will get at it.”

Mills feels they all know each other well in his organization, which helped in the face of COVID challenges. He says working together for a long time in different ways allowed them to have common goals and strategies. Still, with COVID it allowed them to gel stronger as a team, increasing their willingness to be candid with each other or debate one another. He says their willingness to reach a consensus is better than ever before.

“I’m always appreciative of the fact that somebody’s got something difficult to say or they don’t like, and they call me or say, ‘Hey, I want to meet with you.’ I think that’s important because, back to your employer question, they want to feel wanted. They want to belong. They want to have coworkers. They want to be respected. To me, that’s the given. And with all the technology we have and the way to communicate, we should be able to do that.”

Mills believes that with all their data and how they get information back and forth, Community Health Network can know consumers better than ever. He believes PX means they must engage their entire workforce to focus on experience.

“We have to know them. We have to use the information to make sure that they know that we know them. We have to find ways in which we engage with each patient. There is listening, engagement, and an understanding,” he says.

Mills thinks it’s the connection between data, engagement, and community ties that help make a difference.

“We’ve got this experience with our patients and their families, and we have got to have this fluid conversation. It’s so easy to take data and come to conclusions. That conclusion maybe 75%, right? We’re talking about the 25% that it’s not right. And we still have got to have an engagement lesson with them. I think that’s why it’s imperative for us to be really involved in our communities. That we’re involved in things that have nothing to do with healthcare but being a part of the communities we serve,” he says.

In the future, he believes Community Health Network will succeed if he continues to focus on being a good coach.

“Our strategy changes, the world changes. But I’ve got to be the coach of this team. I’m an optimist. I think we can find solutions. I think the better retention we have of our leadership and our employees, the better, and numbers keep moving in the right direction; that’s healthy to me.”

Learn how Community Health Network markets accessibility to employee caregivers in this episode of NRC Health’s Patient No Longer podcast.