Experience is the 'true north' of UC San Diego Health: Q&A with CXO

Thomas J. Savides, MD, chief experience officer at University of California San Diego Health, discusses the importance of engaging all stakeholders in ensuring an exceptional care experience and what UC San Diego Health is doing to lead the way.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is the most important lesson you have learned about delivering excellent patient experience?

Dr. Thomas Savides: For the past five years, UC San Diego Health has been on an extraordinary journey to transform experience for our team members, our providers, our patients and our guests. The greatest lesson we've learned is that creating a better experience for our patients starts with creating a better experience for our team members and providers. By starting first with our team member and provider experience, we are better able to enlist and equip everyone to lead the way for a new kind of patient experience.

This kind of journey takes honest self-reflection from every leader to keep the experience of our people and our patients as the true north of our caring organization. As leaders, it is our responsibility to set a clear vision and intention for the kind of culture and experience we want to create and then weave that into our everyday leadership — informing our strategic, business and operational endeavors — and keeping our focus on the small tasks and the large decisions we make daily. It takes a constant commitment and effort to improve our culture, our experience and our operational efficiency so that we will increase the overall wellness of our team.

Q: What are some common missteps hospitals make in their patient experience initiatives?

TS: I give every leader and every organization focused on experience a lot of credit. It takes courage and commitment and passion and patience. Some healthcare organizations seem to narrow their focus to surveys and scores or expect an easy fix by addressing one domain or one particular element. Others may implement an office of experience and not engage all leaders and team members in the work of designing the experience. We have found that we need to have every part of the organization fully engaged, equipped and empowered to do their part to make the experience better for each other, and our patients and guests.

Q: What has been the most successful patient experience initiative at your organization?

TS: Since 2015, UC San Diego Health has worked hard to create a clear intention for the culture and experience we want to bring to life, and we have welcomed more than 10,000 team members and providers into the realm of experience design through Leading the Way — our unique full-day immersive learning salon.

Leading the Way not only provides our team with the framework and methods for positive transformation, it also gives everyone a chance to share their wisdom and big ideas for the future. It is truly inspiring to see what is possible when we invite everyone into a place where relationship, empathy and hospitality are at the heart of the work, where we are reminded why we each choose to spend our careers in healthcare and where the joy in medicine is rekindled.

More articles on patient engagement:
Helping patients feel whole: Q&A with AdventHealth CXO Pam Guler
Lurie Children's nurse raises funds to donate gaming devices to patients
It's not all about the patient, Vidant Health CXO says



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