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Why Team Engagement is Key for Supporting the Healthcare Workforce
Episode

Vishal Bhalla, Chief Experience Officer at Atrium Health

Why Team Engagement is Key for Supporting the Healthcare Workforce

The human experience is essential to care for within the healthcare industry.

 

In this episode, Vishal Bhalla talks about his role as Chief Experience Officer at Atrium Health, where he implements innovation and metrics to improve the experience of every individual that comes into contact with the organization, be it for work, receiving care, or volunteering. In the present climate, individuals are more passionate and driven, so Chris has to ensure that patients or co-workers are given the correct data and solutions to navigate their journey with Atrium empowerment and trust. Chris’s work has supported many initiatives to leverage existing and new solutions that produce measurable results. He discusses the value of looking to other industries for existing solutions, leadership for team engagement, and having the right mindset technology-wise as vital aspects to ensure a gold-standard experience.

 

Tune in to learn about Vishal’s work to turn the healthcare experience meaningful and fulfilling for everyone! 

Why Team Engagement is Key for Supporting the Healthcare Workforce

About Vishal Bhalla:

Vishal Bhalla is the current Chief Experience Officer at Atrium Health. Vishal has also previously served as the Chief Experience Officer & VP of Operations at Parkland Hospital and as the Director of Lodge Operations for Noralta Lodge Ltd. In addition, they have also worked as the COO of the Caribbean Institute of International Hospitality Management & Culinary Arts.

Bhalla has a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as a Healthcare Certificate and a System Science in Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Vishal also has a Diversity & Inclusion for HR degree from Cornell University’s ILR School and a General Managers Program degree from Cornell University’s School of Hospitality Administration. Additionally, Bhalla has a Master’s Degree in Hotel Administration from the University of Strathclyde and is certified as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt by the Management and Strategy Institute, and as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) by HRCI.

 

CareDelivery_Vishal Bhalla: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

CareDelivery_Vishal Bhalla: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Manav Sevak:
Welcome to the Memora Health Care Delivery podcast. Through conversations with industry leaders and innovators, we uncover ways to simplify how patients and care teams navigate complex care delivery.

Manav Sevak:
Hey everybody! This is Manav here from Memora Health. Very excited to have a pretty unique and interesting guest on, from the Advocate/Atrium Health team, Vish Bhalla. Vish, thanks so much for coming on.

Vishal Bhalla:
My pleasure, Manav.

Manav Sevak:
Awesome, so you have a pretty interesting kind of role and title in Chief Experience Officer, which is one that is starting to appear more and more in the healthcare industry. So maybe before we jump in, we’d love to have you share with the audience a little bit about your story, maybe a little bit about your background, and also what you do in your role as Chief Experience Officer.

Vishal Bhalla:
Well, thank you. I have been blessed to have a colorful background and have a very understanding spouse who is also my best friend. I started off in India, did my undergrad there, and have had the privilege of having worked on four continents. I was in the hospitality business first. I started off in the kitchen, as many of us do. I pivoted into healthcare in a crucible experience, with a crucible experience. My dad, for the last two years of his life, was in a hospital setting, and at that point in time we were in the Caribbean and moved back to Canada, that’s where we were settled, and got an opportunity to work in a role where I was 20 days on, 10 days off, and so I spent 10 days a month in the hospital as a family member of a patient. And while the people were awesome, I think the process is, left a little to be desired and there were some unintended consequences. They took great care of him, but there were some unintended consequences, and I pushed my way up the chain of command to understand how something like this could have happened. The feedback I got was insufficient resources, and having a background also in Lean, I’m a master black belt, my feedback to them was, figuratively speaking, you have water running down the drain on this side and people are thirsty on the other. And so at that point in time, I was also doing my MBA, the MBA, and my dad passed away and I was a bit of a tailspin, and my wife who was also my best friend said, either zip it or do something about it, right? And I had the privilege of being in the right place at the right time with a lot of colleagues in my class who were from healthcare, who supported the transition to healthcare, and so I moved into healthcare. In terms of what the role is, the Chief Experience Officer role, it’s about the human experience. And I’m proud to say that our senior leadership team has the vision to combine the entire human experience into one framework, right? So my role is to assist with the human experience, whenever an individual interacts with the organization, that’s the function. What does that mean, Manav? So it means likelihood to recommend our place as a place too, right? Advocate as health, as a place to work for teammates, as a place to get care for patients, as a place to volunteer for volunteers, and so on. So that is the function, it’s to ensure that we are taking care of individuals when they interact with the organization.

Manav Sevak:
Very helpful, and just an incredible story around how you got into healthcare, and it totally makes sense how you’ve been focused on the experience as a result of some of the experiences that you’ve personally had. So maybe related to that, would love to understand your perspective on, the healthcare experience has changed so dramatically over the course of the last 10, 15 years now, but especially over the course of the last 2 to 3 years as we navigated the pandemic. What are your high-level observations on one, on the care delivery side and the provider side? What do you think has changed the most? And then same on the patient side. What is the high-level theme that you’ve taken away? What’s changed?

Vishal Bhalla:
Very insightful question. I think our world has changed beyond healthcare, also. A lot of individuals were looking for specific attention or were trying to communicate with us whether there were teammates or patients, whether they were healthcare organizations or not, and with the pandemic, people have really reassessed what’s important to them. And so two things have occurred, a few things, actually. But fundamentally, number one, the power, I believe, has shifted even much more to the individual, to the end of one. So in order to serve, if you’re in human resources, where I have one foot of my work, the, in order to serve the department, to recruit, recruitment is an issue, you need to be able to serve at the end of one to recruit. So what we have to do is we have to think differently. Our systems and processes are set up to serve SWATs of individuals. So for human resources, our primary client, if you will, were the departments, right? And so all our measures and our processes were in serving the department time to fill, from the time the position is vacant to the time the position is filled. But how does that make an impact to the individual applying for the role? Do we measure, as an organization, do we measure from the time an individual applied to the time the individual got there first pick? That’s what’s important to the individual on the front line. And so we have to really rethink our systems and processes so that we are serving the individual, and by serving the individual, do we serve the clients? And the same thing for our patients. So it’s really at an end of one. And we’ve seen this, there’s been a movement, a very strong movement of see me for all I am, right? And I think that is a fundamental difference. The second fundamental difference, I believe, first of all, to take a step back in healthcare. Healthcare is a very awesome industry, coming from outside of healthcare, where almost every individual is dedicated to the mission of healthcare, irrespective of the organization they work for. They are driven internally to serve that patient in the end. They are like this beautiful bird who wants this pound cake, right? And what do we all do? By we, I mean, meaning the rest of the world, including a government agency and so on, we put a lot of red tape, so we put a sheet of glass between the bird and the cake. And this beautiful bird goes for the cake and whacks its beak and whacks its beak and can’t get it, right? So our job was the experience function that you were talking about earlier, is to help remove the glass and just get out of their way because people are very passionately driven. Now, what has changed in healthcare is, yes, people are still driven to that, but remember where the power has shifted to the individual. If we don’t take care of them, they’re going to fly away. They are more apt to say enough, right? And so we’re seeing this surge of individuals who are so driven and sacrificing themselves up to even their own health and relationships to take care of patients that are now starting to say, wait a minute, why is this sheet of glass in between me and that cake, right, figuratively speaking? And so I think it’s very important that we listen with our eyes, with our hearts, our minds and empower them in enabling a frictionless manner and empowering them to actually coming up with the solutions and giving them data to the right person in the right time with minimum friction so that they can make informed decisions.

Manav Sevak:
Yeah, absolutely, very well said, and I love the analogy that you used. Any particular, just to bring it to life a little bit, any particular examples of that innovation inside of Atrium specifically that you’ve been overseeing or championing, or maybe even areas, where you think Atrium has really, you know, moved the needle on the experience compared to other systems?

Vishal Bhalla:
Yeah, we’re, I think a lot of the work to be done is about not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but going back to basics to quite an extent and leveraging technology to help with the simplification. We, the battle is won or lost, at the first level of leadership is where we support our, end of the day, who are we here to serve? We’re here to serve our frontline teammates and our patients, and everything we do must align to that. And so what we’ve been able to do in some of the, we’ve piloted a few things. I’ve only been here for a short duration of time and I’m only building on the shoulders of giants, as they say. There’s been a lot of foundational work being done by leaders across the enterprise, right? But big picture, I will tell you, I’m proud to share that as an organization, we have increased our patient experience scores where we know that the human sentiment has dropped across the nation and the world. And same thing on our teammate experience scores, right, they have gone up when, on a context where the scores have dropped. Now scores are an indication of which way the wind is blowing, it’s not an end in itself. So there has been a lot of work really empowering people, various initiatives that empower our teams on the frontline to come up with the solutions.

Manav Sevak:
Very helpful. And what are, maybe related to that, so one would be, I’m curious to hear, what metrics you really benchmark on the patient side when you’re thinking about the experience, whether it’s patients, caregivers, whoever else? I think the second thing that I’m curious about is, the provider experience has come into focus so much more over the course of the last 2 to 3 years because of the strain that they’ve taken on as a result of the pandemic, as a result of workforce challenges that we’re experiencing right now as an industry. What metrics are you all using to benchmark the experience there?

Vishal Bhalla:
So it depends on which, the answer is, it depends, it’s not a great answer, is what aspect of their experience you’re looking for. So what we’ve identified is our leadership is key in enabling our teammates, right? And so we measure, like I said, likelihood to recommend Atrium Health as a place to work. In terms of, when I say teammates, I include everyone who serves, this does include our clinical teams, so our physicians, and our APPs. Sorry if I just generalize it to that one phrase. They deserve a lot of recognition for everything that they do. So for all our stakeholders as individuals, that is the one common thread that we look across the board. The other thing that we have done, Manav, to say a little bit about benchmarking next, but I just want to, intuitively we know, and there are many white papers on this, and studies done, that teammate engagement is related to well-being, is related to servant leadership, is related to safety outcomes, right? And we’ve been able to actually map that out at Atrium. I think we’re very, that is something that’s foundational. So once we have that blueprint, we can continue building upon it, that is key. Benchmarking, in my opinion, is a little, can be out of context, there are a lot of things that are in your circle of influence, sometimes not. It also depends where each group is starting out from, and benchmarking overgeneralizes. To me, I think it’s very important that we are better than we were yesterday. Every day we move the needle and we take care of our patients. We have better outcomes. We have people who are engaged, and really connected, and have that sense of connection, and build the trust with each other and our patients.

Manav Sevak:
No, very helpful, and love the perspective. Maybe last question on that thread, I would, I’d love to get your perspective on is, one thing that we hear a lot of when we talk with clinicians who use Memora, and generally when we talk with clinicians, especially younger ones, they feel as if they have all of this technology that enables all of the other facets of their life, right, and there’s everything from one-click checkouts to very easy processes for checking into flights now, all the way to extremely easy ways to find things that you may want to buy. And then they step into the hospital and they feel as if they’ve gone back almost 10, 15 years in the technology experience that they’re having. So the thing that I’d be curious to understand is, in the role of Chief Experience Officer, are there other industries that you look to when you think of gold-standard experience, both for your consumers as well as for the folks who are providing it, or do you feel as if you try to keep some of your references and benchmarks directly just in healthcare?

Vishal Bhalla:
I think it’s a combination and it depends on what aspect of the journey we’re looking at. So healthcare, and I ask you to imagine a little bit with me, in my opinion, healthcare is set up like a loaf of bread with several slices. All these verticals, right? So, and the patient or the teammate experiences longitudinally across these vertical slices, and these slices are full of well-meaning, hard-working individuals, but they are in their specialties or slices. So to answer you, it’s imperative that, one of the things that we hear back in healthcare is the continuity of, right? And so it depends on what aspect of that journey, under which slice you’re looking to improve, or are you looking to improve the holistic, you would, we would, I don’t want to say benchmark, but learn from various industries. And I think a lot of, I talk to colleagues of mine and also, as we have recently come together, within Atrium, there were four organizations that came together and now with Advocate in Aurora, so there are awesome practices within each of our organizations that we can scale up, and so I think that is one of the most exciting aspects. The other piece is technology is developing so fast, so we don’t have to necessarily pick up where others are, but we can leapfrog with the right mindset, and sure, that we will connect again, Manav, where, with the leadership team we have and the energy, the positive spirit that we have in our organization, we are wound tight like that toy, which is going to really take off. I hope that we will have a conversation saying, how did you all do this? Whatever this may be, is where we are able to care for all, irrespective of where, what their ability is in terms of getting care.

Manav Sevak:
Absolutely, absolutely, very well said, and love the perspective on how to think about improving the experience, especially for folks who are so, so mission-driven. And at the end of the day, a lot of your work boils down to how do you help them rediscover their love for medicine, or how do you make sure that patients going through such an intimate episode are able to navigate their healthcare experience in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling for them. So thank you for all that you do, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your perspective, and really excited to hopefully connect again in the future.

Vishal Bhalla:
Absolutely, my pleasure, Manav.

Manav Sevak:
Thanks for listening to the Memora Health Care Delivery podcast. For more ideas on simplifying complex care for care teams and patients, visit MemoraHealth.com.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • Healthcare systems and processes need to be rebuilt to serve individuals.
  • One of the Experience Metrics Chris has in place is the likelihood to recommend Atrium Health as a place to work.
  • The hospital technology experience can feel about a decade dated. 
  • Healthcare is set up with several vertical siloes, but individuals experience and navigate longitudinally across them.
  • Atrium Health comprises four organizations that came together and shared practices to scale up: Wake Forest Baptist Health, Navicent Health, Floyd Health System, and Advocate Aurora.

Resources:

  • Connect and follow Vishal Bhalla on LinkedIn.
  • Follow Atrium Health on LinkedIn.
  • Discover the Atrium Health Website!

About Memora Health:

Memora Health is the leading technology platform for virtual care delivery and complex care management. Memora partners with leading health systems, health plans, life science companies, and digital health companies to transform the care delivery process for patients and care teams. The company’s platform digitizes and automates complex care workflows, supercharging care teams by intelligently triaging patient-reported concerns and data to appropriate care team members and providing patients with proactive, two-way communication on their care journeys.