The words “hospital” and “hospitality” derive from the same Latin word meaning “guest.” At NYU Langone Health, bridging those two service-oriented fields is core to delivering the very best patient experience. “We are in the hospitality business,” notes Robert I. Grossman, MD, dean of NYU Grossman School of Medicine and CEO of NYU Langone, “and we have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact by going above and beyond to make patients and colleagues feel valued and special.”
Building on best practices from the hospitality industry, NYU Langone has launched a strategy for its more than 330 Faculty Group Practice (FGP) locations, doctor’s offices owned and operated by the health system. The program sets the standard for how staff and clinicians should communicate and engage with patients and each other, and how they can optimize these encounters. Implemented in August 2022, the program is called FGP C.A.R.E.S. The letters stand for the following:
- Connect with patients and colleagues
- Align with their needs
- Respond with timely, effective options
- Ensure that expectations are met
- Sign off to complete the interaction
The idea to create this program had actually been percolating for some time in the mind of Andrew Rubin, senior vice president for clinical affairs and ambulatory care. He engaged the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center to tailor its legendary customer experience model to NYU Langone’s rapidly expanding FGP network. “Knowing the quality of the Ritz-Carlton brand, I wanted to create a patient experience template for our network that was as close to that model as possible,” explains Rubin. “You may not look forward to a doctor visit the way you would a hotel stay, but what makes the experiences similar is the need to make your guests feel welcome and comfortable when they arrive and throughout their journey.”
The program provides a framework for expectations and behaviors to guide employees when they engage with others—whether patients or colleagues, whether face-to-face, over the phone, or electronically. “We’re transforming the culture of how we engage with each other,” says Maya Levy-Merdinger, senior director of ambulatory operations and optimization.
Throughout this training, a wide range of frontline staff are coached on how to build an emotional connection with patients and colleagues alike, ensuring quality and consistency for every encounter, every time. “We have a big network, and as it continues to grow, one of the challenges is maintaining a consistent patient experience,” notes Fran Drummond, vice president of ambulatory operations and optimization. “We want a patient to walk into any NYU Langone FGP office and be able to say, ‘I know this is the right place for me because I can see and feel how much they care.’”
Every month, Rubin and his team learn of employees who have gone above and beyond to enhance a patient’s experience. They call them “Wow Stories.” Recently, for example, a patient was scheduled to see his doctor at NYU Langone Medical Associates—Shoreham on Long Island. While making the appointment, office assistant Desiree Bender noted that the visit was on the patient’s 100th birthday. She and medical assistant Derek Castro presented him with a cake and joined his daughter as they sang “Happy Birthday!”
Rubin says that it’s rewarding to see the results of this work, pointing to reviews from patient surveys that have been overwhelmingly positive. “Our satisfaction scores have gone up in every category since the launch,” he reports. “Now, the key is to maintain the results. This is not a one and done—it has to go on forever. This program will help define who we are and who we want to be as a healthcare network.”
So far, over 6,000 frontline workers have completed C.A.R.E.S. training, as well as Dr. Grossman; Andrew W. Brotman, MD, executive vice president and vice dean for clinical affairs and strategy, chief clinical officer; and Rubin himself. To ensure continued success, this fall NYU Langone is expanding the program to the network’s physicians and other clinicians, who will attend 90-minute, in-person training sessions.
“We’ve consistently ranked as the No. 1 ambulatory care system in the United States by Vizient, the nation’s largest healthcare performance improvement organization,” says Rubin. “We want to maintain our lead and continue to distinguish our network. We’re reinventing ourselves every day, every month, every year to help attract and retain people who want to work for the best.”