How do you define patience experience in a hospital? In today’s episode, I speak with Alan Dubovsky, Chief Patient Experience Officer at Cedars-Sinai, who talks about how a hospital stint in his youth led to a lifelong obsession with healthcare; specifically, how you get doctors, nurses, and employees to work together. Still relatively new to his role at Cedars-Sinai, Alan walks us through the steps he took to define his position and lead a patient experience transformation throughout the hospital.
Defining the Chief Patient Experience Officer Role and Work to be Done
Alan had an unorthodox introduction to his role as Chief Patient Experience Officer. He was recruited for the position at Cedars-Sinai but the recruiter mentioned that during this process, Alan would have to describe what the role should look like. The hospital’s executives didn’t know what the position should look like, but they knew this type of role was needed. When hired, it was up to Alan to define the role. Excited about this high level of engagement with his work, Alan was eager to write the essay that was also a part of his application process. The essay had to describe what he expected the first 60 to 90 days on the job to look like.
What did the first year look like?
“My job is going to be to come in and figure out what this place thinks they do well, and then line that up with what our patients think we do well,” says Alan. He explains that there was a misguided perception of what Cedars-Sinai is known for and what patients thought about the hospital. Alan’s position was a new one for Cedars-Sinai Hospital and he had to define what success would look like for his role.
Alan had to work with nurses, doctors, care techs, and patients to define what patient experience is and how this can be achieved at the hospital. He spent a lot of time listening to others. As many of my other podcast guests have mentioned, this is an important part of the process. How do you make changes without knowing what your customer concerns or successes are? Listen, gather information about the various experiences, then assess and determine how you should move forward. Alan conducted numerous informational interviews focusing on the experience from the patient’s point of view.
Repackage Gathered Data into Manageable Work
After gathering information from the interviews, Alan repackaged the information and broke it down into five buckets of work that should be focused on. I like this method because it’s taking the time to assess the work and tackle it in pieces rather than trying to do too much at work.
- Bucket 1: Raise awareness of patient experience and be consistent about it. Consistently create a standard definition so that a year from now if we walk around and say, “What does patient experience mean? What are our goals?” it can be explained and all the leaders are on the same track. Essentially, creating a language.
- Bucket 2: Communicate with patients to find out what they truly need to know or don’t already know. For example, with the patient in mind, survey questions have been shortened to increase response rates. Learning how to use data to tell stories.
- Bucket 3: Think about positively affecting patient facing programs. How do you streamline post discharge calls, how can patients access the hospital online, etc.
- Bucket 4: How do you improve resources for the employees and physicians? Think about performance improvement and understand the journey map.
- Bucket 5: Think of how to infuse fun into the patient experience. Make room to create innovative ideas.
Alan has been able to see success in his customer experience transformation by dividing the work up into these buckets, and he mentions that he’s seen more internal interest in being a part of the process. Additionally, with focusing on the patient’s experience, he’s also received positive feedback from patients about the changes to surveys; they prefer the new approach.
What do you Know NOW That You Wish You Knew THEN
- “Appreciate that there are different perceptions of patient experience. I think those of us that do this for a living, are 100% focused on just what we believe to be true. Yes, it’s all about the patients and their families, but you don’t get an organization of 16k people like Cedars to change culture without also understanding that maybe those 16k people have their own perception or their own wishes.”
- “If I could go back, I think one thing I would also say is, it’s not just entirely about the patients. It’s as much about the employees, and as much about the leaders, and bringing those all together.”
- Get more formal with creating plans and tying them into operations. Really put together a plan and maintain it with status updates.
- “Don’t forget the story. At the end of the day, this is truly about the stories of what our patients and their families go through. Don’t ever forget what this means, what you are working on, and what it means if you get it right to the patients that come through here every day.”
About Alan Dubovsky
Alan Dubovsky is the Chief Patient Experience Officer for Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles, California. In his role, Alan is responsible for the facilitation of all patient experience strategy and operations improvements in the inpatient, ambulatory, emergency, and ancillary areas for the health system. Alan joined Cedars-Sinai in November, 2016, with 15 years focused on healthcare patient experience improvement.
Prior to joining Cedars-Sinai, Alan was with Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia, serving as the Director of Operations. In that role, Alan was responsible for the departments of patient experience, physician engagement, special constituent and international patient programs, referral management, education and training, and leadership and talent development.
Alan completed his undergraduate degree in Business Administration at the University of Georgia and his Executive Master in Business Administration at Emory University.
Note from Jeanne: I want to let you know that we’ve welcomed a sponsor for our show, Customerville. Until now, I have been paying for all of the expenses of the show myself. I love doing these for you – but they cost quite a bundle. 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!