Tampa General CEO John Couris: To build a patient-centric system, focus first on improving internal culture

Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, for healthcare leaders, creating a "patients-first" ecosystem starts by putting team members first, according to John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital.

During a keynote interview at the Becker's Hospital Review CEO + CFO Roundtable in Chicago on Nov. 12, Mr. Couris shared why much of his time is spent spearheading cultural change, and the four distinct ways he engages with Tampa General's thousands of staff members.

"If you take care of your people, the people take care of the rest. It's very, very simple," he said. "And then, ultimately, the patient is first, because they're the beneficiary of the people that are engaged and have the right tools, the right processes and the right systems in place."

To better understand the hospital's employees and improve their experience — which, in turn, improves the patient experience — Mr. Couris hosts biannual forums with every team member in attendance; works alongside frontline staff two to four times per month; offers workers the chance to anonymously "Ask John" any questions or offer suggestions; and posts regular blogs and social media posts to keep the team updated on his plans for Tampa General's future.

Mr. Couris shared how one of his stints working alongside nursing staff led him to replace troublesome fitted sheets on all of the facility's 1,010 beds. "Some of you might think it is trivial and a little thing — it is absolutely not. If it's important to your people, it needs to be important to you as leaders," he said, adding, "I am very passionate about this."

He also reiterated why it is crucial that leaders involve themselves so deeply in their organization's culture: "You've got to be in the flow, in the mix, in the narrative and part of the conversation with everybody. Because if you're not curating the narrative, someone is doing it for you. Why not be in the mix?"

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