MGR: Changing the Way We Care (Kevin McGeachy, Sven Gierlinger)

Photo _Britta 9.2015I recently had the opportunity to attend the Management Grand Rounds session with New York’s North Shore LIJ Health System’s Patient Experience. The topic of the discussion was about their journey toward creating an innovative culture to deliver world-class patient care.  The two guest speakers featured at the session are from very different educational and professional backgrounds and they have teamed up to achieve a common goal: to improve the quality of patient experience through the care they receive while in the hospital.

The first speaker, Kevin McGeachy, Executive Director for North Shore LIJ Health System, spoke of his role and his teams’ role in changing the way North Shore provides care.  For years, McGeachy said that North Shore (which includes 19 hospitals) was exclusively focused on quality and safety as the primary performance metrics.

Achieving and sustaining high ratings and scores around quality and safety was all that he and his teams focused on, and this focus created their culture – a culture that left out employee engagement. McGeachy identified this gap and is now working to change their culture.

How are they accomplishing this goal? North Shore has shifted its gears and is changing their approach – they are working to improve their communication, are being more transparent with their employees, and are asking opinions of their employees and involving them in decision-making processes.  And above all they are taking the time to recognize the positive changes in their employees. These are the three key drivers North Shore has attributed to the slow and steady to change its culture. McGeachy started this culture change with his leadership team and uses the same tactics with his front line staff – they are all receiving the same message, they are all tasked to be engaged and they are all being held accountable.

Changing North Shores culture was the first part of their goal, the second part was to change their patient care to be more of a patient experience model.  For this, McGeachy brought on a customer service specialist Mr. Sven Gierlinger.  Gierlinger, who has a background in luxury hospitality with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, joined McGeachy as the Chief Experience Officer at North Shore LIJ Health System to begin this process.

Gierlinger, who spoke second, engaged the BCH audience by sharing his personal experience and the care he received for a rare neurological disorder that left him immobile and one hundred percent dependent on his caregivers for a year.

Gierlinger explained his experience and the care he received to be directly related to the caregiver who was on duty; each nurse and each physical therapist had a different approach. Some would introduce themselves, explain what they were going to do and what he would expect to feel. Then there were others, who did not greet him, did not share what they were there to do and gave him no warning of the pain or discomfort he would feel – they just moved him around like a rag doll to quickly get their work done and move to the next patient. Gierlinger, who spent his life’s work around delivering outstanding customer service was astonished that a hospital would provide such fragmented care, and a patient experience that was determined by the personality and mood of each caregiver.

Gierlinger has made a full recovery, and now as North Shore’s Chief Experience Officer he is facilitating the change so that North Shore delivers an excellent patient experience.

What is his plan for this change?  Gierlinger explained that we are in the era of consumerism. People research before they buy.  They yelp, tweet, and Facebook all before they eat a meal and this too will be the thinking when they decide where to receive their care.  Hospitals are not built on this foundation and for decades just providing care that kept their patients safe, healthy and alive was enough.  He stated that, that way of thinking is not enough now and he’s getting North Shore to recognize that patients have a voice and that they will share their experiences through these channels, which will either help or ruin their reputation.

With the support of North Shore’s leadership, Gierlinger has developed a strategy for how North Shore employees will change the patient’s experience. This strategy involves setting behavioral expectations, setting service expectations, developing service recovery modules and building out their current learning and development program to include education of the patient experience. These components are all tied back to the employees’ evaluations and are addressed in North Shore’s annual employee engagement surveys.  With these tools, additional training and accountability, Gierlinger is slowly building a culture that can truly C.A.R.E – one that has connected, one that is aware, one that shows respect and one that shows empathy – all key components in delivering an excellent patient experience.

Together McGeachy and Gierlinger are changing the way North Shore cares because, as they shared in their presentation, it is the right thing to do.  We are entering a new era of healthcare and service around healthcare because patients have a voice and the tools to share their opinions and experiences, which can have dramatic impacts on the hospital’s or health care organization’s reputation. For these reasons, North Shore is investing in its culture and building a better patient experience.

North Shore has shown BCH what they have accomplished and are working towards and in his closing remarks Gierlinger stated every role matters, every person matters, and every moment matters and he played the song from the Broadway Play, RENT – there are 525,600 minutes in a year – make every moment count.

Click this link to view the presentation.

Click this link to view presentation slides.

Britta Mainello

Human Resources Consultant

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