couple of months. Then, right before Thanksgiving,
we had a physician meeting where I put together a
physician strategy group that I would meet with about
every month just to talk about things that were going
on in the organization. And we really started talking
about purpose, why physicians come to Ochsner,
why physicians do what they do, why nurses do what
they do, why the teams we have are successful. And
I realized when I went back home to Vermont for
Thanksgiving and I was walking around in the woods
that I missed it—that all the information I had and
where I wanted the organization to go made sense.
But how I positioned it was totally wrong.”
For Thomas, the answer to the questions of “why
are we here?” and “why do people get into practicing
health care when it’s so hard?” can be found in the
people we surround ourselves with and in feeling that
what we do on a day-to-day basis matters.
“I realized that we were talking too much about
Focusing on the Patient
what we were going to do versus why we were going
to do it,” he said. “That I was leading from a position
of being fearful of making a mistake versus being opti-
mistic about the future and what we can do. I needed
to change the way I lead. I needed to change the way
I communicated, and help people believe that together
we’d accomplish more.”
Thomas continued, “I changed everything about
the way I started to communicate in the organization.
And it all came back to starting with patients—that
in everything we do, if we can’t tie it back to why it’s
better for a patient then we probably shouldn’t do it.
You’ve got regulatory issues and stuff like that. We all
get that. But at the end of the day, if there’s something
major that we’re doing, it needs to be about why it’s
good for a patient. If you build a new wing or start a
new program, why is that good for patients?”
With this simple yet effective mantra, the staff of
Ochsner changed the way they communicated. They
didn’t talk about things like Medicare breaking even.
They didn’t talk about access. Instead they placed their
focus on reducing the overall cost of care, working to
be more convenient and easier to use for patients, and
looking at impact over growth.
Turning this cultural strategy into practical action,
Ochsner began implementing tactics driven from a
patient perspective. For example, when patients called
in, they were asked if they actually needed to be seen
that same day. If a patient said yes, Ochsner would do
everything in their ability to see that patient (versus
what was convenient for Ochsner based on packed
Percent of Employees and Leaders Activity Engagement
The Power of One
schedules). With this new concentration on severity
and need, Ochsner has been able to see 20,000 more
patients a year who needed to be seen the same day.
The ease with which patients can make an appointment was also revamped. Upping their web presence,
Ochsner currently schedules more than 100,000 more
appointments online per year.
Focusing on Employees
While these were relatively uncomplicated fixes on
the patient end, Thomas saw that Ochsner still had to
contend with what were flat engagement results from