How to Improve Healthcare CX: Lessons from a CXO and Hospitality Veteran

Beyond Patient Experience, How do You Improve the Overall Hospital Quality and Safety Experience at Hospitals?

What happens when one moves from hospitality to healthcare? Shawn Smith is a Chief Experience Officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Though he’s only been in this position for less than a year, Shawn is responsible for improving the experience of the hospital which spans both patient and caregiver experience, and the overall quality and safety aspect of the health care center. With a background in hospitality, working in casinos, I chat with Shawn about his transition from hospitality to healthcare.

Expand the Horizon of Helping People

Taking his years of hospitality experience along with an MBA from Villanova University, Shawn positioned himself to apply his customer centric skills to other industries. He landed his post-hospitality role as the senior manager of guest relations at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, then he went on to become VP of Patient Experience at Christiana Care Health System. It was in these roles where Shawn began to elevate and improve customer care (improving valet functions, front desk experience, etc.) while also complying with standard healthcare operations and regulations.

Shawn learned the importance of analyzing data in order to implement CX changes – a skill that came in handy for his current role as CXO at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, a large academic medical and trauma center in the DMV area.

Find What’s Missing, Speak to that Space, and Make the Distinction

Beyond Patient Experience, How do You Improve the Overall Hospital Quality and Safety Experience at Hospitals?Upon joining Medstar, Shawn’s responsibility would be to improve the hospital experience, unite teams to help improve this experience, and create an environment that improves patients’ perspectives of the care experience (this was a major focus).

When he first began to assess the work that needed to be done to start this transformation, it was up to Shawn to figure out what was missing within the organization, speak to that space, and make the distinction in how to solve the issue.

Here’s where he started:

  • Focus on relationship building: have conversations and listen
  • Can new models be created?: look at the data and the evidence presented in order to understand where the hospital currently is in its overall experience.
  • Understand the ecosystems and goal alignment: using surveys, Shawn reached out to the various hospital committees and councils to figure out what their goals are to drive the ultimate result. He found there were a lot of overarching goals among the various leaders and committees and had to develop a plan for how to reach them.
  • It’s critical to understand the motivations and agendas of all the key stakeholders and if there are any commonalities that can knit them all together.
  • After gathering the feedback, Shawn and his team have been able to reorganize at the top, and get focused on how to create overall alignment for the goals based on context and data. They decided to get a data expert in the healthcare field to help them sort through the data while also spending time building relationships.

Using both qualitative and quantitative data, Shawn and his team have been looking at YTD versus the prior year, trends, and correlation of overall satisfaction. When it comes to scores and ratings – what are people saying that gives the hospital a high or low score and how can you pull those themes out.

Additionally, Shawn shadowed people in order to observe patient flow and the various touch points throughout the hospital. He then combined data with observational ethnography to understand how to solve for issues the data shows. For instance, Shawn described this process as the following – imagine the data shows that one section of a hallway seems to accumulate more garbage than another. Upon observation, there’s not a garbage can nearby. Perhaps that area needs a garbage can to change behaviors. Combining findings from hard data and in-person observations helps to guide the hospital in telling their own story/narrative.

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

Shawn says:

  • Take the time to listen to people, you need more than just one data point. Have multiple data points for the decisions you make.
  • Understand the team that you’re working with and their side of the process before you start making changes.
  • When it comes to improving HCAPS, make sure any changes you make actually improves the wellbeing of the people you’re serving. Don’t just score chase!
Take the time to listen to people, you need more than just one data point. Have multiple data points for the decisions you make. #CX #CustExp Click To Tweet

About Shawn Smith

Results and customer-focused Operations Management Professional with a background of fast-track advancement through positions of increasing challenge and responsibility for a global industry leader.

Shawn is an out-of-the-box-thinker who combines vision with strong business management acumen to spearhead projects and processes that streamline operations contain costs and deliver maximum revenue and profit generation in a complex business / operating environment.



The presenting sponsor of The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show is Customerville. Customerville transforms customer experience surveys into rich, interactive experiences using its unique Design-driven Feedback™ platform.

This partnership ensures that I can continue these shows that you’ve shared such positive feedback on.  Thanks so much to Customervillle! Enjoy the show!

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