It’s tough to admit that you’re average, especially when comparative measures show your nearby competition is better than you. That, however, was the bitter tonic that Adventist Midwest Health had to swallow three years ago. Executives at the Hindsdale, IL-based four-hospital system serving the western suburbs of Chicago knew they were in the middle of the pack, or worse, on key metrics, including employee engagement and patient satisfaction.
“We made a decision that we didn’t want to be average. We wanted to be a world-class organization. We set a rather aggressive goal to be at the 90th percentile on all of our metrics by 2012,” says Don Russell, vice president of human resources at Adventist Midwest, explaining the health system’s decision to become an “employer of choice.”
Employee engagement was one of the first areas Adventist Midwest addressed, Russell says, because if employee engagement scores are low, other scores—especially patient satisfaction—will be, too.
The health system hired the Studer Group consultancy and began using now-common tactics like leadership rounding to better understand employees’ concerns. “About three or four months into it, there was a feeling that something is different around here,” says Vinnie Garufi, Adventist Midwest’s director of organization development. “When we were about 10 months into it and we got our employee engagement results, we saw that as a region they had gone from the 45th to the 60th percentile in one year, which was leaps and bounds better than what we’d been able to accomplish in prior years.”
Since 2009, the improvements in employee engagement—as measured by the Gallup Q12 survey—have been steady but not as dramatic. Flagship hospital, Adventist Hinsdale, for example, now has employee engagement at the 60th percentile, up from the 40s a couple of years ago. Even better, the health system has been able to link higher employee engagement scores with higher patient satisfaction scores—as measured by the federal government’s Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems. At Adventist Hinsdale, as employee engagement scores rose, patient satisfaction highest rating scores rose from 54% to 63%. “We see the same trends at every site,” Garufi says.
Those numbers, he says, will become even more important in the coming years, as the new federal healthcare reforms factor in patient satisfaction scores when determining reimbursements. Garufi and Russell concede that these better-than-average scores don’t place Adventist Midwest in elite company, but they’re also happy to see the needle moving in the right direction.