St. Joseph Health System, serving residents of the Brazos Valley in Texas, is an integrated health system including five hospitals, two long term care centers, a freestanding rehabilitation center, a freestanding emergency center and primary and specialty care clinics across the region. But more than bricks and mortar, St. Joseph has long been known for delivering high quality care, with compassion. We commonly refer to this experience as The St. Joseph Difference. In fact, St. Joseph has been the recipient of the HealthGrades Outstanding Patient Experience Award and ranked among the top 10% in the nation for Outstanding Patient Experience four years in a row (2009 – 2012).
Yet, despite our outstanding patient experience results, when Sylvania Franciscan Health system, St. Joseph’s parent corporation, made the decision to partner with the Studer Group, it couldn’t have come at a better time. After completing our second round of Employee Satisfaction surveys, it was clear that there was a need to improve employee engagement among our 2,500 team members. In fact, our coach commented early on about how unique it was to have positive results in patient satisfaction, quality and physician satisfaction when employee satisfaction was mediocre at best.
Since implementing the "must haves," St. Joseph has seen an improvement in every question (42) on the Employee Satisfaction Survey in 2012. For patient satisfaction, St. Joseph is above the 80% percentile in every composite and has maintained these results for three quarters. Even with the recent surge in ED volume, St. Joseph maintained patient satisfaction above the 81% percentile – this would have been unheard of before using the Studer tools.
The Evidence-Based LeadershipSM Model as prescribed by Studer has enabled us to achieve results and consistency organization-wide through reducing leader variance, creating standard work processes, improving communication and enhancing recognition.
Because we are a faith based organization, we already had in place a strong mission and core values. Our standards of behavior were clearly defined around them. However, we struggled to hold team members accountable to those behaviors. Implementing HighMiddleLow conversations has been a rich tool for leaders, enabling them to have meaningful and actionable conversations with team members.
Following the implementation of rounding, our leaders, team members and patients have seen the benefits. Internal rounding has opened up communication between departments and continues to facilitate process improvement. For patients, the use of AIDET and implementation of Nurse Leader Rounding and Patient Call Manager have positively impacted the patient experience.
Studer principles have also improved communication. The department meeting model brings staff together monthly, employee forums are geared around the pillars and thank you notes have become core to our culture.
Part of what has resonated most within the organization is the focus Studer places on continuous development. As our former CEO, Sister Gretchen Kunz stated, there "is no end to getting better." At St. Joseph, we are always on a journey to excel. Appropriately enough, we named our Studer journey ACE – Always Creating Excellence. And, in support of providing our leaders ample development opportunities, we have committed to holding Leadership Development Institutes regularly. Over time, leaders have become more engaged in these sessions, in part due to changes in the structure and appointment of Senior Leaders and Pillar Leaders to lead these sessions. They are now viewed as a resource and learning opportunity, with leaders applying what they learn to their daily work.
Studer focuses heavily on connecting the dots at all levels of the organization in order to achieve results. At St. Joseph, our balanced scorecard is built around the pillars – people, quality, finance, service and growth. This enables everyone within the organization to see how our results link together. To that end, we recently ramped up our efforts to set measurable goals that align throughout the entire system. We’ve begun using the LEM to track progress, and, while we have a ways to go until it is fully adopted, leaders across the system are beginning to see the importance. Studer has pushed our leaders to establish measurable goals as we never have before. This has helped leaders’ prioritize their efforts and engage staff.
Change is difficult! People are naturally resistant. But, when change comes with recognizable improvements and results, it becomes a much easier part of leadership. ACE (Studer) continues to provide the evidence that what we are doing is moving the organization in the right direction and enabling us to maintain our position as the premier healthcare system serving the Brazos Valley.