December 1999

Market-based Organization Leaders Share Best Practices in Customer Satisfaction

Voice of the Customer

In September, Initiatives featured the best practices of Mercy Medical Center, Roseburg, Ore., as the top customer satisfaction performer within Catholic Health Initiatives during fiscal year 1999. This issue highlights best practices for achieving service excellence at six of the 12 market-based organizations that also scored significantly higher than the average. Next month, Initiatives will include the best practices of the remaining six market-based organizations. "Creating a culture of service excellence is paramount to carrying out our work and fulfilling our mission," said Patricia A. Cahill, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Health Initiatives. "Exceeding the expectations of our customers requires an investment of time and resources and the return on the effort is substantial. Employees become energized and recommit their passion for caring for patients and their families and for one another. This translates into providing improved health care to the community and gaining the trust and confidence of all of our customers, including physicians, businesses and payers." Centura Health - Avista Adventist Hospital Louisville, Colo. "Achieving patient satisfaction at Avista Adventist Hospital, Louisville, Colo., starts with a focus on Christ’s healing ministry," said John Sackett, president of the hospital, which is part of Centura Health. "Jesus Christ treated everyone as an individual, cared for the underserved, used touch to heal and gave compassion freely. Everyone connected with our hospital understands that this is an important part of his or her role as well. We strive to create an environment that galvanizes support for our mission." Single patient rooms offer privacy and comfort and room service gives patients the opportunity to eat what they want when they want it. A focus on maintaining a quiet, healing environment includes such subtle but important touches as no overhead paging. Memorial Hospital Chattanooga, Tenn. L. Clark Taylor, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga, Tenn., says that Memorial Hospital’s ability to meet the needs of its customers is a self-fulfilling prophecy. "We view ourselves as an organization that lives out its commitment to service excellence. Our employees are called ‘associates,’ not ‘staff’ and are hired based upon their desire to serve others and their commitment to our core values." Taylor said that this service orientation did not happen overnight and has been a major area of focus for him since he joined Memorial Hospital seven years ago. An aggressive performance improvement process and a gainsharing program that pays out to all employees equally when budget and customer satisfaction targets are achieved reinforces that associates are working toward the same goals. Mercy Hospital Williston, N.D. "We’re all extremely proud of what we do," said M. Thomas Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Mercy Hospital, Williston, N.D. "We make sure that our staff knows how important they are and they, in turn, make their patients feel important. Teamwork is vital and we all work together to make it easier for patients to flow through our system." Emergency department staff contact patients the day following their visit to see how they are doing and to demonstrate care and concern. "We also have a very stable group of emergency department physicians who know Mercy Hospital well and work in partnership with our staff," said Mitchell. St. Agnes Medical Center Philadelphia, Pa. "Keeping patient satisfaction as ‘top-of-mind’ in the eyes of staff is an important element in the success of St. Agnes Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pa., said Keith Gowton, director of service excellence. Gowton provides ongoing feedback on customer satisfaction throughout the organization and conveys information in an easy-to-understand format. "Once you give people the data and are clear about what they need to do to improve, they’ll respond. We all want satisfied patients," said Gowton. He added that St. Agnes leadership continuously articulates a clear vision for service excellence and celebrates and rewards success along the way. St. Joseph Hospital Lexington, Ky. "We’re not a perfect place, but we’re a place trying to be perfect," said Thomas J. Murray, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Hospital, Lexington, Ky. "St. Joseph’s tradition of service is an important part of our culture. We have high expectations of ourselves and we support it through formal and informal processes." Murray noted that in addition to good, old-fashioned Southern hospitality, St. Joseph’s has a patient satisfaction council that analyzes trends and develops strategies to respond to patient feedback. For the past 25 years, the hospital has also had a patient representative program in place, which uses the skills of dedicated volunteers to help meet patients’ needs. St. Joseph Northeast Heights Hospital Albuquerque, N.M. "We try to approach everything we do through the eyes of our customers," said Tony Struthers, vice president of operations for St. Joseph Northeast Heights Hospital, Albuquerque, N.M. "Process improvement begins and ends by asking how will this improvement make our hospital more convenient to use for our patients and their families." Struthers said that employees take pride in their work and their facility. This pride is conveyed from the time that they join the organization. "Our employees truly take service to a different level. It’s a part of our culture that impacts everything we do," noted Struthers.