OU Physicians Group

  • Location: Oklahoma City, OK
  • Award: Evidence-Based Leadership Healthcare Organization of the Month
  • Awarded: August 2011

With more than 700 credential providers, OU Physicians is Oklahoma's largest physicians group. It encompasses almost every adult and child specialty, providing comprehensive, multi-disciplinary care and world-first treatments in an academic research setting. With its partners, the OU College of Medicine and the OU Medical Center, it comprises OU Medicine, a collective clinical enterprise.

More than anything, the story of OU Medicine is one of transformation.

Located on a beautiful campus near downtown Oklahoma City, OU Medicine has been in a constant state of change in recent years. The look of its facilities has improved dramatically with new additions and renovations, and its organizational culture has undergone its own overhaul. Old mindsets about customer service and OU Medicine's place in the health care market have been discarded and replaced with a new outlook squarely focused on improving the patient experience and the overall enterprise.

Change didn't happen overnight, but positive results came quickly after organization leaders committed themselves and their people to a new way of thinking and doing.

It all began four years ago when OU Medicine took a long, hard look at itself and saw plenty of room for improvement. Talented professionals were delivering quality health care to patients, but the organization labored under a widespread community perception that it only served an indigent population in less-than-desirable facilities and therefore, wasn't the first choice for health care needs. The perception was not consistent with the reality of the academic medical facility, but campus attitudes often mirrored those public thoughts, and low patient satisfaction scores were the norm.

OU Medicine leaders saw their organization at a crossroads. It could remain satisfied with the status quo and a mediocre patient experience or it could turn its culture upside down and push for a new attitude of excellence. It chose the latter and launched the Excel program.

Goals to Action

Excel's goal was simple: Provide world-class service excellence in all aspects of patient care. To accomplish that goal, it established new standards of employee behavior that placed a premium on customer service and high-quality treatment. These standards were linked to measurable goals which were, in turn, linked to financial incentives, a relationship that gave everyone a stake in the game, from the entry-level clinic staffer to the top physician.

Within a few months of completing the first round of training and implementing it in practice, OU Medicine began experience significant improvements in overall patient satisfaction scores and in specific questions like overall cheerfulness, introduction of self, information about delays, courtesy of reception staff, and helpfulness over the phone.

Clinics that witnessed dramatic improvements in their scores were rewarded with financial bonuses and special banners denoting their achievement of excellence. The water cooler talk among employees shifted from the traditional events of the day to meeting goals and hitting performance targets.

The Results

Within the first several months of initiating Excel, patient satisfaction began to climb.

Our overall ranking has increased from the 12th to the 75th percentile. When compared with more than 8,800 clinic sites in the Press Ganey national peer group, 25 of our clinics, or 51%, rank in the top 25th percentile. OU Medicine is a national leader in managing patients' expectations of their visit and in proactively communicating any delays in clinic flow. Its "information about delays" ranking has increased from the 17th, at its lowest point, to the 88th percentile in the country.

The courtesy of staff in the registration area ranking has improved from the 20th percentile to the 90th in recent quarters. One of the most important patient satisfaction indicators, the likelihood of our patients recommending OU Physicians to others, has improved from the 7th percentile to the 75th in the country.

Excel has produced benefits in other areas. Voluntary turnover rate has decreased from 27% in 2008 to 14% in recent months. Employee satisfaction scores have increased. OU Medicine also surveys more than 700 physicians each year about their satisfaction with the organization and their specific clinic operation. When recently asked about their overall satisfaction with clinic operations, 76% responded they were satisfied or very satisfied, up from 70% in 2007.

Awards and Achievements

A series of awards and public recognition have accompanied the rising patient and employee satisfaction scores.

  • OU Medical Center was ranked the number one hospital in Oklahoma City by U.S News and World Report, citing five specialty areas for high performance: cancer, gynecology, urology, nephrology and ear, nose and throat.
  • The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center received national recognition from U.S. News for its urology program, making it the only facility in Oklahoma to receive such a national ranking.
  • OU Physicians recently earned reaccreditation from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.
  • OU Medicine received three Excellence in Patient Care awards at the 8th annual What's Right in Health CareSM conference in 2010.
  • OU Physicians received the Champions of Health award for OU Fit, a healthy lifestyles and fitness program that encouraged employees to adopt better health habits.

Always Pushing Ahead

The OU Medicine experiment that began four years ago is still a work in progress, but it has already produced incredible results for the organization and the people it serves.
Patient satisfaction scores are up across the board, with some clinics posting remarkable turnarounds that took them from the bottom to the top of the satisfaction scale. Employees are more focused on service and goal achievement than ever before, morale and pride have improved and organization leaders are constantly looking for additional ways to take us to an even higher level of performance.

OU Medicine still faces its share of challenges, but it is committed to moving forward and capitalizing on the momentum it has achieved. As one OU Physicians leader put it, "We understand we are on a continuous journey and should never be satisfied with its progress, no matter how impressive our patient scores or outcomes. We will just keep chugging along because we know we are on the right track."

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