St. Joseph Health's Jacque Maples on why 'care for our caregivers' is key to a first-rate patient experience

Jacque Maples, regional director of caregiver and patient experience for the Northern California region of Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health, discusses the importance of empowering caregivers, her proudest achievements in patient experience and why people, both providers and patients, have to come first.

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

Question: What is your proudest moment/achievement as patient experience director of the Northern California region for St. Joseph Health?

Jacque Maples: I actually started in the Northern California region three years ago. I started in one of our hospitals in Northern California, Queen of the Valley, and I was the director of patient experience there up until March of this year, and then I moved into the regional role.

While in the role at Queen of the Valley, we really took an innovative approach to patient experience by engaging and empowering our frontline staff through several different programs. We really wanted to say that we don't want our organization or culture to be just focused on patient experience, but we really want to start aligning or engaging our caregivers.

So, we developed two programs. One was called the patient care improvement program and the other one was called the Queen experience [program].

The patient care improvement program really uses Lean Six Sigma and change management methodologies to transform the way our caregivers work, and our patients receive care, one department at a time. Our caregivers are doing the work every day, and they have the solutions to fix the problems that arise, but as leaders … we are used to guiding that work rather than really flipping the paradigm and empowering our caregivers and asking them, 'What's not working? How would you fix it? OK, go and fix it.' And so, we implemented the patient care improvement program in one department, and in one quarter, we saw amazing results and improvement in their patient experience scores.

We started spreading that [program] into other departments, and then it made us realize that if we took [it] one department at a time to drive improvement, it would take us 20 years.

And so, we developed a second program, the Queen experience, which is a combination of Lean daily management and leadership rounding, to again, empower caregivers to drive change in their work while leaders help remove the obstacles and barriers that get in the way. This program aligns improvement metrics with our four organizational priorities: caregiver experience, patient experience, quality and safety and stewardship and efficiency.

After only eight months to a year of implementation of this program, we saw significant improvement in our caregiver, patient and provider experience scores as well as an increase in all of our quality metrics.

I would say my proudest moment and achievement are those two programs and the results we received.

Q: What is the biggest threat to great patient experience today? How do you think it can be tackled?

JM: I think the biggest threat is that there are so many competing priorities, and we say that our caregivers, patients and providers are our first priority but then our actions and decisions don't follow that sentiment. We are in a world of competing demands, but we have to continue to align our people, our processes and operations and keep the main thing, the main thing, which is people caring for people.

For example, I think that finance is always a hot topic. And so, we tend to make operational decisions focused and based on the financial impact rather than the people impact. If people are our highest priority, we have to make sure that our operational decisions reflect that, and they don't reflect the finances being the highest priority. While we still have to be fiscally responsible when we run a business, we need to make sure that we remember that we are in the people business, and that looks different.

Q: In what ways do you think your role will change over the next five years? What excites you most and what worries you most?

JM: I believe it's time to drive culture through a combined strategy that really focuses on caregivers, patients and providers together, so that we are driving culture through one lens and are not driving competing priorities.

As we evolve over the next five years, my hope is that we won't get distracted by all of the noise in healthcare and we will keep the main thing, the main thing, which is care for our caregivers so they can care for our patients, and I think, through that we are creating alignment across the continuum of care.

We are aligning the care experience in the hospital, in the medical group and in the home community care, knowing that we all serve the same patients so we need to align more in our teamwork, communication and experience initiatives, so that we are providing the same level of care no matter where our patients experience us.

While we know right now that our patients and our caregivers are the most important asset to the work that we do, what worries me the most is that we will lose sight of that. And then we will go back to running and operating a business that leaves our people behind. And that won't serve us well in healthcare anywhere.

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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