JPS Health Network: Success Through Certifications

When organizational transformation happens in partnership with physicians, patient experience advancements can take great strides forward among clinical teams. At JPS Health Network this became a reality as the organization translated an organizational priority into an operating model that engaged clinicians, focused on the value of community building, and established a culture of reward and recognition.

Lara Burnside, Senior Vice President of Patient Experience and Strategy/Chief Experience Officer at JPS Health Network, shares with Gidon Margolin, President of Practicing Excellence, the journey JPS has experienced, from physicians watching the first Clinician Experience Project skill-building videos to enrolling physicians and advanced practice providers in patient experience certifications.



Gidon: To provide a bit of background, how has JPS kept the patient experience relevant for the organization with so many competing priorities?

Lara: Treating our patients with dignity and respect and allowing them to partner with us in their care is always going to be our focus. It’s the right thing to do. In light of this, patient experience is a part of our organizational goal structure. This past year, our board felt our patients’ experience was so important, the service pillar was weighted at 35% of our organizational goals. This includes our HCAHPS and outpatient patient experience. That becomes even more intriguing because we’re a public hospital, which makes it not a financially motivated decision, but one that allows for our efforts to be focused on doing the right thing for our patients. This level of board support has made it clear that it’s important to our organization, to our patients, and to our community as a whole. It’s clear to our team that our patients deserve to receive exceptional care.

Gidon: How have you worked to strategically engage physicians to advance your patient experience goals?

Lara: We placed our strategy component within the patient experience division last year, which is different than the way most organizations are structured. And because of that, part of our work was creating a roadmap to ensure there was true alignment.

Along with creating a great patient experience, Physician/APP engagement is one of our key priorities. Employee engagement is the core of our culture change; it is natural for us to continue that journey with our medical team.

As part of our engagement strategy, we enrolled about 50 physicians into a formal leadership development program. This has been a great catalyst in helping us cascade key strategies into our daily practice. To ensure our team understood our organizational priorities, we held multiple learning sessions to explain our organizational goals and discuss key actions that could be taken in order for us to meet and exceed those goals. Through those sessions, we heard our teams ask for more resources to help them build skills to enhance the patient experience and manage change.

We’ve also used data transparently to help guide our efforts. This is not done in a punitive way, rather it helps our team to understand emerging trends and opportunities for improvement. We’ve embraced it culturally and operationally. We review our organizational goal metrics every month with our leadership team and they’re sent out to the entire organization every week in our huddle. We find that repetition of information brings greater understanding, alignment, and focus. With that, we create better outcomes for our patients.

Gidon: What part has the Clinician Experience Project had in helping you reinforce the importance of patient experience skill-building?

Lara: It’s been huge. Some of our physicians have logged thousands of points in the Project. When they see something, try it, and then share their learning with their peers, we gain traction. Interestingly, last week our physicians called an emergency meeting to discuss strategies to improve the physician communication dimension on HCAHPS. I’ve never experienced that in my career. That tells me we are making great progress.

Within a 12-hour period we had an action plan that our physicians developed. This plan included key skill-building resources from the Clinician Experience Project. Within 24 hours we had two key tactics that we rolled out to all of our participating physicians. About two days later I met with one of the physicians who was involved. He had already started using the tactics and shared how pleased he was that his patients were responding so positively to the change in his approach. In turn, he was feeling really good about his practice. That’s what this is about. Our patients feel good about their care and our medical team feels good about their work. This is a win-win. That is part of what we’ve learned from the Clinician Experience Project: the “learn-try-share” model and bringing our physicians to the table. This never would have happened before we started engaging our physicians in an intentional way. We found an increased difference when we started utilizing the resources in the Clinician Experience Project.

Gidon: I understand that you’re rolling out a certification program for the patient experience. How are you using The Clinician Experience Project to support the certification process for participating clinicians?

Lara: We’re building an institute called the Institute for Culture Change and Innovation. We’ve created a mastery program for patient experience as part of the Institute. Physicians and advanced practice providers will be certified through JPS and through our partnership with Practicing Excellence will also follow the certification program through the Clinician Experience Project. It fits nicely within the structure of what we’ve created internally. After course completion, they will be JPS-certified Patient Experience Masters as well as nationally certified through Practicing Excellence.

We have selected clinical/operational leadership, physicians, and APPs for our certifications program. These dyad/triad partnerships include individuals who want to learn better ways to care for our patients and are influential with their teams. Whether on the inpatient or outpatient side, they will take the information back to their peers to ensure that all clinicians and team members are well versed in skills learned within our certification program. Again, we are utilizing the learn-try-share model.

Gidon: One of the things you have pioneered is the idea of forums and building esprit de corps with your physicians. Share with us how these forums began and the impact that they’ve had.

Lara: At first we really struggled with getting our physicians engaged in participating in the Project. So we created an advisory board of physicians that were utilizing the Project and asked them if it was worthwhile to them. The answer to that unanimously was yes.

We then posed the question, “If it’s worthwhile, how do we make it work at JPS?” there were many suggestions, and the one we chose creates a learning platform monthly over lunch. Our clinicians love networking and time to get to know each other. These lunch forums provide an opportunity for both skill building and networking. They are designed for physicians/APPs and are facilitated by them as well. The forums include topical content, some interactive activity, and we always show a Practicing Excellence coaching tip that supports what’s being taught. We average about 50 attendees per month and they represent our entire medical team: students, residents, APPs, and attending physicians.

Gidon: Are you seeing physicians at JPS cement relationships with their patients and is that having an impact on their patient experience scores?

Lara: Yes, we are. Our overall physician communication domain in HCAHPS has improved over last year. . . but this is about more than the scores. It’s the right thing to do for our team and for our patients. We are seeing a different level of engagement from our physician group. That is truly new and exciting and shows me that we’re at a tipping point right now. You can really feel the momentum here when it comes to our physicians: they’re excited and we’re excited.

Gidon: You clearly value contribution and participation. I’d love to hear what you’ve done in terms of rewarding and recognizing physician improvement.

Lara: A few years ago we started recognizing our top performers when it came to the way patients viewed their care. The first year we did this, we had fewer than 10 people considered “top performing” within the organization. Last year we increased that number to just under 50. Dr. Tim Kremer, Senior Vice President and Chief Physician Engagement Officer, writes more thank you notes than I think he ever thought he would write in his life. In addition to the public recognition, we noticed thank you notes have deep meaning to our team members.

At JPS, we are about inclusion. We invite our physicians to do rounds with the executive team and we recognize teams and team members through that process. We also include our physicians in our patient experience unit or clinic recognitions. We use these moments to share what our patients are saying about the team, take photos of the teams, and display that recognition on our 75 monitors throughout the network.

Gidon: Do you have with any other stories that speak to the transformation you’ve witnessed through the application of new skills learned in the Clinician Experience Project?

Lara: We have so many great stories to share.

Our physicians are referencing tips they learned from the videos in the Project. And that’s why I’ve realized that we are making significant progress. We have bridged our patient experience with our physician engagement pretty nicely. The partnership that Dr. Kremer and I have is crucial to the success of this journey. Together, we are a better team and can provide better care for our patients. I can’t wait to see what happens in this coming year.


Learn more about our Patient Experience Certification Program designed to advance clinician knowledge in connecting with patients and support development through reward and recognition.

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