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Focus on respect, attention, courtesy
As part of a major ongoing effort to pursue service excellence, The Great Neck, NY-based North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System has entered into an agreement with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, of Atlanta, on a program aimed at fostering a corporate culture in which patients are given the same respect, attention, and courtesy as guests at a luxury hotel.
"To meet the demands and expectations of today’s health care consumers, we not only must provide them with high-quality medical care, we must gain their trust and loyalty by making sure that every aspect of their visit meets or exceeds their expectation, whether it be the courtesy of staff or the quality of the food they are served," says Michael J. Dowling, LIJ’s president and CEO and the person who provided the initial impetus for the partnership with Ritz-Carlton.
"This comes under the strategic dashboard of what we are focusing on — work force development, service excellence, and other quality issues at a strategic level," explains Kathleen Gallo, PhD, LIJ’s chief learning officer. "Bringing service excellence up to the level of our clinical excellence is what we are working for."
The partnership with Ritz-Carlton fits comfortably within an overall strategy exemplified by the system’s Center for Learning and Innovation, which was rolled out in January 2002. As chief learning officer, Gallo’s responsibility is to enhance the learning capacity of the organization, and this effort is a significant component of that endeavor. It involves a strategic partnership with the General Electric Leadership Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Initial seminars under way
Under the umbrella of the Center for Learning and Innovation, faculty from The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center are instructing key health system employees in a range of corporate practices and processes. The first seminar took place in December 2002 and will be run monthly until the end of this year, by which time 600 leaders throughout the system will have received the training.
"The Ritz people come once a month and take the staff through an eight-hour session," Gallo explains. "They tell their stories and share their strategies." These include:
Behavioral job interviewing is another Ritz-Carlton concept LIJ has adopted. "It builds the interview questions around the core competencies of the job, and service needs to be at the top," says Gallo. "So, for example, the candidate is asked about their past experience in terms of how well they delivered service in their other jobs. This way, you bring in people who already have an affinity for service."
After that, new employees enter the orientation program, called "Foundations." "They meet our CEO, who goes through the strategic plan with them. They discuss how important service is, what our expectations are, and how they are linked to our overall strategic plan for being an excellent company," says Gallo. "Then they go to the Ritz class."
Building on each other
Even without the Ritz-Carlton effort, the Center for Learning and Innovation is an impressive undertaking. For example, LIJ claims to be the largest health care system to develop a "corporate university." The concept, pioneered by General Electric, "helps give rise to excellence and provides the foundation for any culture transformation," says Gallo. Faculty who teach learning initiatives at the Center come not only from LIJ, but from Harvard and GE Medical Systems as well.
One GE-inspired effort, the Six Sigma initiative, already has borne fruit, with documented net savings to LIJ of more than $800,000.
All these initiatives are intertwined with, not separate from, the Ritz-Carlton partnership. "In our core management classes, the first class out of the box is service — how we can provide a better experience around our clinical excellence," says Gallo. "What we do in those classes reinforces Ritz-Carlton, and vice-versa."
Another Ritz-Carlton concept adopted by LIJ is the employee input survey, which enables all 32,000 employees to share their thoughts on how close the organization is coming to its vision of excellence. "This converts again into improved patient satisfaction," Gallo asserts.
Gallo already is noting improvement in the hospital areas that have been exposed to the Ritz-Carlton principles the longest. "Service is all about culture, which you can’t supervise," she explains, asserting that these principles are directly transferable to health care. "The high-performance organizations all have similar basic principles, and applying those principles to whatever business you are in gets results."
Need More Information?
For more information, contact:
• Kathleen Gallo, PhD, Chief Learning Officer, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Great Neck, NY. Telephone: (516) 396-6147.