“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

-William Arthur Ward

Healthcare is in a state of constant change since the Affordable Care Act kick-started the transition to value-based care in 2010. Numerous policy changes and technological advancements that have since come forth have produced a sizable impact on hospitals, insurers, physicians and other healthcare practitioners. If you read the quote above, organizations that are “adjusting their sails” are in the best position to win the new game of healthcare. The Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC Children’s) is one of them.

Recently, I had the chance to reconnect with Kenza Benzami, whom I met through the American College of Healthcare Executives (AHCE). She is a member of the patient engagement team at CHOC Children’s. I was curious to learn how her organization has been reinventing patient experience in the new era of healthcare. Kenza shared with me the approaches that she has found valuable: innovating with simplicity, living the culture, and identifying internal champions.

First, Kenza stresses that innovation should be conducted with simplicity and sustainability in mind. From her experience, some of the most successful and lasting improvement efforts for patient experience were initiated by front-line staff and did not necessarily require much resources or time. For example, at CHOC Children’s, a nurse started putting a welcome card on the patient’s bed that included heart-warming messages before they arrived. The practice was valued by patients, quickly adopted across the hospital floors and is still in place today. Something seemingly small but demonstrative of the extra time and care of the staff can mean a whole lot more to individual patients who are at their most vulnerable.

Second, organizational culture drives the patient experience. Culture at a healthcare organization is especially powerful, because it shapes and guides people’s interactions with their colleagues and patients alike. Kenza says part of her role is “living the value of service.” One of the ways that her team delivers on their commitment to service is by keeping the CHOC Experience alive. When people are living and breathing the “CHOC Experience,” their actions can become guided by it- ensuring a consistently positive brand and patient experience, which then increases brand loyalty and ultimately the bottom line of the hospital.

Last but not least, paying attention to team sub-cultures and having an internal champion matter. As an advocate for patient engagement and satisfaction, Kenza is frequently engaged with and invited by other departments within the hospital to provide training on further elevating service levels. Throughout working with different teams, Kenza’s keen sense allowed her to discover that sub-team cultures can be quite unique from the main organizational culture. As a result, Kenza is more effective in mobilizing teams by adjusting her style accordingly.

Another way that Kenza increases the adoption of her training is by identifying a team champion. Before she starts to collaborate with another team, one of the first things she looks for is “who is the internal champion for this team?” Without one, she finds it that much harder for the change initiatives to stick. Individual accountability breeds action, and action generates results.

Even if you don’t work in a healthcare environment, I believe Kenza’s experience has universal value in implementing change and accomplishing results within any industry or organization. In this time of rapid change and increasingly necessary innovation, we must all make “adjusting the sails” our practice.

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