Putting pa­tients first

Me­mo­rial Health­care frees work­ers to break the rules to help im­prove pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence

Modern Healthcare - - THE BEST PLACES TO WORK IN HEALTHCARE - All sto­ries writ­ten by David Royse

For some hospi­tal CEOs, one of the most dif­fi­cult parts of the job might be un­der­stand­ing what em­ploy­ees need to be sat­is­fied in their work. Me­mo­rial Health­care Sys­tem CEO Frank Sacco knows first­hand what the daily grind is like in, say, house­keep­ing or se­cu­rity, though. He used to work there. Sacco started at Me­mo­rial Re­gional Hospi­tal as di­rec­tor of house­keep­ing in 1974 and worked his way up to the top job at the sys­tem of six hos­pi­tals near Fort Laud­erdale, Fla. But Sacco doesn’t rely on his decades-old ex­pe­ri­ence in the trenches. He and other top man­agers meet with as many em­ploy­ees as pos­si­ble to make sure all tiers of man­age­ment know what ev­ery­one’s chal­lenges are.

Me­mo­rial is No. 2 in the large providers cat­e­gory in the Best Places to Work for 2015. It’s No. 7 among all providers and No. 15 over­all.

For years, Sacco has joined top ad­min­is­tra­tors in “mak­ing rounds,” check­ing in with staff, ask­ing, ‘What do we need to do to help you?’ ” said Sacco, who is set to re­tire in Fe­bru­ary. “We’re all in this to­gether—it’s not us ver­sus them.”

Sacco said he’s learned in those talks that em­ploy­ees’ ul­ti­mate sat­is­fac­tion stems from treat­ing pa­tients well. Em­pow­er­ing them to do that gives work­ers a sense of ac­com­plish­ment that beats other perks. “That’s why peo­ple get into health­care, to fo­cus on the pa­tient, to be a care­giver,” Sacco said.

The treat­ment that pa­tients and their fam­i­lies re­ceive even draws peo­ple to seek work at Me­mo­rial Health­care hos­pi­tals, said Margie Var­gas, vice pres­i­dent of hu­man resources.

“They’ll say, ‘I joined the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­cause of the care I re­ceived as a pa­tient or the care that was given to a loved one,’ ” Var­gas said.

The hospi­tal sys­tem uses a pa­tient-cen­tered fo­cus when hir­ing. “We don’t just look for the skill set, we look for mo­ti­va­tion, we look for in­tegrity,” Var­gas said. And af­ter ap­pli­cants are hired, the sys­tem has to em­power them to pro­vide that care, Sacco said.

Sacco meets with em­ploy­ees dur­ing ori­en­ta­tion and tells them sto­ries to im­press on them that, no mat­ter what their po­si­tion might be, they’re re­spon­si­ble for high-qual­ity pa­tient care—and if they put that goal first, man­age­ment will have their back.

He tells them the story of the food de­liv­ery worker who sensed a change in a pa­tient’s de­meanor and in­sisted a nurse check on him. “He was in con­ges­tive heart fail­ure, and that di­etary host­ess may have saved that per­son’s life that day,” Sacco said.

He also tells the story about the nurse’s aide who was flagged down by a pa­tient’s son ask­ing for help, and by­passed a triage nurse to do an EKG on the pa­tient, alert­ing a doc­tor the pa­tient was hav­ing a heart at­tack.

“I tell that story and peo­ple say, ‘If I did that where I worked be­fore, I would have lost my job,’ ” Sacco said. “But you can break the rules if you’re putting the pa­tient first.”

Hun­dreds of Me­mo­rial Health­care Sys­tem per­son­nel par­tic­i­pated in the In­victa Tour de Broward in Fe­bru­ary to raise money for the sys­tem’s Joe DiMag­gio Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal. The event raised $400,000 in 2015.

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