What Makes University Hospitals Tick?

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Understanding our culture, laying the foundation for turning aspiration into action

UH Clinical Update | February 2020

By Cliff Megerian, MD
President, University Hospitals

Most of us are familiar with the University Hospitals values, which spell out the word EDICT:

Excellence. Diversity. Integrity. Compassion. Teamwork. 

“Culture’ is another word used by many leaders of businesses, including health care systems, and it can be confusing – because there may be as many meanings as there are people.

Here at UH when we say ‘culture,’ what we are talking about is how we bring these UH values to life, and transform them from aspiration into action.

We need to know how best to do that. But first, as I mentioned in last month’s message, it is vital for me to listen to the ideas and perspectives of people throughout our organization.

That has already started. Over the next several months, I’ll continue spending time with UH leaders, physicians, researchers, nurses, other caregivers and volunteers; UH Board members; donors; government and community leaders; partners at Case Western Reserve University; as well as health care leaders and industry associates; and of course, the people who live in our communities.

As I have said in these visits, I believe that spending time thinking about UH culture may be the most important task of a new leader.
You may say, “Why is this so important? Our culture is fine here at our hospital” or “Our culture is great at this ambulatory surgical center.” But I think culture must be examined because ultimately it is what propels performance.

It drives success, it drives the overall environment where we work - a good culture creates a sense of team and rewards people for different ideas and diversity of thought. A not-so-good culture inhibits ideas and frank conversations. 

Culture can turn a good patient experience into a great one. If the culture is ideal in a health care organization, it ensures that someone who visits us for the first time will visit us for all health issues a second and third time, and convince their family and friends that UH should be their healthcare destination.

And how do we get there? There’s a wonderful book by Ann Rhoades called “Built on Values” that is exceedingly inspiring on how to engage an entire organization in examining its culture. It starts with a series of meetings and engagement with every part of the organization that will define the most important values. 

There’s an adage that says, “Culture eats strategy for lunch every day.” In other words, you can have the most wonderful strategy in the business world or the healthcare-business world, but if the culture doesn’t promote a group of caregivers who deliver the most personalized experience to our patients, the strategy will not succeed.

We know that a highly engaged group of caregivers produces highly engaged, happy and compliant patients who do better in the long run regarding their health.

If we synchronize the behaviors that enhance a patient’s experience, we will have a health care system that is unstoppable.

NEXT MONTH: Part II. Valuing the diverse and distinct cultures of UH.

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