The corner office: Dr. David Feinberg on raising the patient experience to a whole new level

David T. Feinberg, MD, was named president and CEO of Geisinger in February 2015. In the almost year since he took over leadership of Geisinger from Glenn Steele, MD, PhD, Dr. Feinberg has redefined what customer service looks like in healthcare. In an unprecedented move, he spearheaded the evolution of the healthcare "warranty." Through its new program ProvenExperience, part of Geisinger's ProvenCare portfolio, the health system offers patients refunds if their expectations for kindness and compassion are not met.

Despite warnings against such a program from executive peers in healthcare and other industries, Dr. Feinberg ultimately decided ProvenExperience's refund policy is simply the next practical and necessary step toward a truly patient-centered care model.   

Prior to joining Geisinger, Dr. Feinberg served as President and CEO of the UCLA Health System. He is triple board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, adult Dr. David Feinbergpsychiatry and addiction psychiatry. He has published numerous professional articles and chapters, and he speaks publicly on many topics, including the patient experience, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, autism, pediatric bipolar disorder, pediatric depression, adolescent substance abuse and the industrialization of medicine.

Here, Dr. Feinberg took the time to answer Becker's Hospital Review's seven questions.

Note: These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What's one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare? 

Being able to connect with people.

What do you enjoy most about Danville? 

Joining Geisinger has been incredible from a professional standpoint. From a personal standpoint, coming from Beverly Hills, it has certainly been a transition. There is less traffic and fewer restaurants — but there are some good ones. [My family and I] are loving living in central Pennsylvania.

If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be? 

I would like to eliminate the waiting room and everything it represents. A waiting room means we're provider-centered — it means the doctor is the most important person and everyone is on [his or her] time. We build up inventory for that doctor — that is, the patients in the waiting room.

To be truly patient-centered, we need to get rid of the waiting room. When your child is suicidal or your wife has breast cancer or your parent fell down in the bathroom and they're bleeding, the last thing you want to do is sit and wait. We need to increase access and availability so we can show people we see it is a privilege to take care of them — to tell patients, "We are waiting for you."

What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite? 

I don't think I have many skills within the C-suite. I'm just one of 30,000 people that make up Geisinger Health System. We get up every day, night, holiday and every weekend to be part of the healing team. When people ask me about work-life balance, I say my work is my life and my life is my work, and I couldn't be happier. There is a real blurring of the lines there. That may seem like the wrong answer to today's generation, but for me, it's very comfortable.

How do you revitalize yourself? 

I over-exercise — sometimes almost to the point of injury. I do cardio, lifting, stretching and walking. And every other moment I have I want to spend with my family.

What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly? 

I had a great mentor when I took on my leadership role at UCLA Hospital System. He told me to just pick one thing to fix in the organization and focus on that. In leadership roles, so much comes your way that if you try to do everything you won't be able to do anything. That one thing I wanted to move the needle on at UCLA, which I did with the great support of the institution, was to make the system more patient-centered.

Now that I'm at Geisinger, I think about the advice everyone gives you as a system's new leader — to go around and listen and don't try to do anything. I spent a lot of time listening, and it was clear to me that one thing we needed to do was take the incredible success Geisinger has had and make sure patients get just what they need.

Ensure patients get what they need and are served with compassion — that was great advice that my mentor gave me about 10 years ago.

What do you consider your greatest achievement at Geisinger so far? 

I don't think it's mine, but I've been a part of it — rolling out ProvenExperience. To us, it's an extension of our ProvenCare Portfolio that started [in 2006]. It was quoted as "surgery with a warranty" by the New York Times. Geisinger employed ProvenCare around illness, then the medical home and chronic care. We launched ProvenExperience a month ago, except this encompasses the whole concept of the care experience.

It includes same-day appointments, people answering the phone and treating patients with dignity and respect. We are also redoing our hospital bill. Because we have a health insurance company, this means you will get a bill you understand. If we don't live up to any of those things, we will give you your money back. Whether we did it right or wrong — we will take the same kind of retail approach like Starbucks or Nordstrom. If you think we didn't do something right, we'll apologize, refund your money and correct it for the next patient. It's an exciting thing that is part of in my first three-quarters of a year at Geisinger.    

More articles on leadership and management:
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Healthcare companies surpass Apple and Google in employee happiness, survey finds

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