The corner office: UCHealth CEO Liz Concordia on zeroing in on the patient experience

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When she first entered the healthcare field as a hospital volunteer in high school, Liz Concordia, president and CEO of Aurora, Colo.-based UCHealth, could already identify where the industry had room to improve.

Anyone who has waited in the emergency room for an hour or more, encountered difficulty when deciphering a medical bill, or wandered alone while navigating a hospital's elizabeth concordiawinding corridors to visit a loved one knows hospitals do not typically earn high marks when it comes to providing a great customer experience. At the helm of UCHealth — a $3.2 billion, seven-hospital system — Ms. Concordia seeks to change that.

Since stepping into her role in September 2014, Ms. Concordia has led UCHealth through a variety of achievements. Most recently, the health system launched a rebranding campaign designed to emphasize the patient experience and innovation. Under Ms. Concordia's leadership, UCHealth has ramped up its focus on forging new strategic partnerships, expanding the system's market reach, developing new models of care, improving patient access and convenience, and supporting the academic mission. The system is also working to create innovative techniques and technology to support population health.

Prior to joining UCHealth, Ms. Concordia was executive vice president of Pittsburgh-based UPMC and president of its Hospital and Community Services Division, where she helped lead the strategic direction, clinical operations and financial success of the larger system. She was also tasked with leading patient care operations for the system's 20 hospitals and 17 senior community facilities. Before that, Ms. Concordia held senior leadership roles at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore and the Montefiore Medical Center's Jack D. Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Here, Ms. Concordia took the time to answer Becker's seven questions.

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

My first experience in healthcare was when I was in high school and volunteered at Temple University Hospital's emergency room in Philadelphia. It was eye opening and showed me just how important healthcare was, and also how much opportunity there was to improve. There was a lot of waiting and down time between each event that occurred in the hospital. There wasn't as much effort around treating patients in the friendliest or most efficient manner. This is why I am passionate about UCHealth’s focus on improving the experience for patients and their family members.

What do you enjoy most about Colorado?

I moved here from the East coast. I love it out here — the sunshine, the amazing weather, the mountains. Our state has a growing population, as well as a strong focus on health and wellness. From a professional perspective, it's really nice because it's a great match for what UCHealth wants to do and what the population of Colorado is really interested in: staying healthy and implementing wellness projects.

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

I would choose to eliminate the roadblocks patients face when trying to interact with the system. We are so far behind other industries when it comes to putting our customers first. We have to figure out how to improve those experiences. When you think about shopping online, booking airlines and hotels, healthcare is far behind in customer service. We must think about how we can use technology to interact with patients, such as for scheduling appointments or holding virtual visits.

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

I can't say this is a skill, but I'm most proud that I have three great kids and an amazing husband. In my office I have a five-foot by five-foot board covered with pictures of my family. I think it's really important for people to recognize that work-life balance is important and being a mom is something to be proud of.

How do you revitalize yourself? 

Exercise is an important stress reliever for me. I like to swim, run and hike. I also like to spend as much time as possible with my family. I always carve out a couple of nights per week dedicated to my family so I can make sure I'm home for dinner with them.

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

Never compromise your values. Integrity, honesty and your reputation are priceless. They can take a lifetime to establish and a day to lose.

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

We're a young system. When I arrived here, we just had a little amount of clinical integration among our hospitals and clinics. Over the last couple of years, leaders and providers have come together to drive clinical integration, expand access to clinical trials and dramatically improve quality and safety. Now, the University of Colorado Hospital is ranked among the top 20 hospitals in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, and all of the system's hospitals are among the best in the state. This really speaks to the hard work that happens here every day from our talented staff.  

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