Northwell Health takes aim at patient experience

Using ‘human information’ can promote meaningful interactions that enhance the care delivery process, says its chief experience officer.

Northwell Health’s focus on creating the ideal patient environment has also benefitted clinicians and other employees and resulted in national recognition for the organization as a workplace.

In a presentation from the HDM KLASroom, Sven Gierlinger, chief experience officer at Northwell Health, and Jeff Fallon, chairman and CEO at Vibe Health by eVideon, examined Northwell’s accomplishment of making the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list three years in a row, even during the upheaval of the COVID pandemic.

Gierlinger previously worked in the luxury hotel business, including an important role for Ritz Carlton. At one point, he suffered a health event that left him paralyzed for many months and hospitalized for three. This unique background made Gierlinger the perfect leader to help reinvent the patient experience at Northwell.

Northwell Health

When Fallon attended Northwell’s Every Moment Matters conference, an event showcasing best practices in patient experience, he was impressed by the things Northwell has implemented and their commitment to the cause.

“It's not unusual to see hospital systems embrace this concept in kind of a lip-service way, but these guys at Northwell have clearly invested in this vision — not just invested their time and attention, but invested significant dollars as well,” he said.

Here are some of the innovative changes Northwell has made to increase comfort levels for both patients and employees.

  • Food. Northwell upgraded their dining services by hiring some of the country’s best chefs from restaurants and hotels. “I'm just blown away by what they've done to transform food service,” Fallon said. “I literally left there thinking, ‘I can’t wait to have to be at a Northwest Hospital to eat in the cafeteria.’ ”
  • Sounds. Northwell is partnering with sound artist and musician Yoko Sen, who is on a mission to change hospital machines’ beeps and other noises to be easier on the ears. “I can certainly see how that would result in a more harmonious environment for the people that are trying to sleep there, not to mention the people trying to work there,” Fallon said.
  • Sleep. A physician-led project called Letting Sleeping Patients Lie uses AI-driven algorithms and effective vital-sign monitoring to limit the need to wake patients unnecessarily. “It's a way we can use the various data sources to impact both the clinician experience and the patient experience, and it's been very successful,” Gierlinger said.

Gierlinger is eager to find even more ways to apply his hospitality background in Northwell’s quest for the improved patient experiences. He referenced Ritz Carlton’s practice of immediately recording guest preferences in the enterprise-wide Ritz Carlton system and expressed his hope that Northwell can follow that example.

“Today, we have to repeat things over and over again, and we are so focused on the clinical information,” he said. “There's so much in terms of human information that we need to gather and that we need to then put to work so we can create meaningful interactions that will then allow us to make our patients feel that we know them. That will ultimately drive loyalty.”

Fallon agrees with Northwell’s focus on technology intended to give clinicians the right information at the right time.

“Technology can't be about removing the humanity from delivering care,” Fallon said. “In my mind, it can only be about freeing up more time for caregivers so that they have more time to deliver that care.”

Both Gierlinger and Fallon recommend that every healthcare organization emphasize the human side of the industry. “It’s all about relationships, right? We are a relationship-driven organization, despite how big we are,” Gierlinger said. “It’s important to make sure that we're focused on our people. That is, I think, in a nutshell, why we are on the list of best places to work.”

See the full list of Clinician Experience learning sessions from the HDM KLASroom Series

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