Case Studies

El Rio: A Commitment to the Community

Challenged with the rapidly-changing healthcare environment, El Rio Community Health Center felt that strengthening their culture was necessary to continue delivering high-quality care. In 2015, El Rio implemented a system-wide change management initiative, successfully embedding a new mindset and beliefs across their entire staff, positively impacting patients, the community, and employees.  El Rio, with their commitment to the people they serve, has found a solution that can truly help them continue their quest for being the world-class, preferred primary care provider in their region.

El Rio Community Health Center

“It’s bringing everyone around to our Key Results, whether they engage with the patient or not.”

Nancy Johnson, CEO of El Rio Community Health Center

IVFurthering the Commitment to Excellence

El Rio Community Health Center is a nationally recognized federally qualified health center. Known for its expert staff and innovation, El Rio is committed to providing their patients, community, and employees with the highest level of care and services.

However, as more and more industries are shifting towards consumerism, healthcare is one industry that will not be left behind. As the healthcare system moves into cost reimbursement based on health outcomes and cost savings, there is a greater focus on the patient (the consumer) from hospitals. Also faced with new and ever-shifting policies and laws regarding healthcare, El Rio decided that to remain as the preferred healthcare choice in their region they had to make improvements, but where?

As a federally qualified health center, El Rio’s Board of Directors is required for its total membership to be comprised of at least 51% patients that are served among their 11 campuses. However, the patients serving on El Rio’s Board members is actually closer to 70%. During a Board Meeting, the committee championed the idea that a shift in their culture would help reinforce El Rio’s mission and further their commitment to excellence at all levels of the organization—from environmental services to nurses to doctors and all the way to the CEO.

After some time of assessing multiple organizations that offered change management solutions—some general, some specific to healthcare—El Rio came across Partners In Leadership. After evaluating the firm’s programs, models, and methodologies, the El Rio leadership team felt that the solution would cognitively fit with their goal of creating a greater patient-centered culture.

Giving the Culture Change a Strong Foundation to Build On

To transform their culture into one that would thrive in the healthcare industry’s shift towards consumerism, El Rio’s leadership team partnered with Culture Partners to deliver a change management solution. The solution would utilize change management curriculum with an ultimate goal of creating a Culture of Accountability that would promote and sustain the culture El Rio’s leadership desired.

When implementing a change management initiative on this scale, it is vital that the senior leadership team be involved in the designing of what the desired culture will be. They must be the architects of what their future desired culture will be and map out what kind of behaviors (the Cultural Beliefs) will foster that culture. Assessments were given to help get a feel of the clients’ needs and to design their specific plan.

El Rio’s leadership team has embraced the beliefs and Culture Management Tools and put them to work in all forms of meetings and staff interactions.

  • Meetings held at all levels of the organization are templated with mission, vision, Cultural Beliefs, and Key Results.
  • Deploying the training across the 11 campuses and 1,000 employees involved the training of several internal employees of El Rio. In total, 16 individuals participated in the Partners In Leadership Train-the-Facilitator program, more commonly known as a “train-the-trainer” process and became certified to deliver the Cultural Transition Process curriculum and methodologies to current and new staff.
  • More and more of El Rio’s staff are leveraging the social digital platform for curriculum retention as well as using the digital versions of the Culture Management Tools to further reinforce the demonstration of the Cultural Beliefs.
  • In the healthcare industry, nurse rounding is a process in which nurse leaders “round” the floor, visiting patients and asking them a series of questions about their care and satisfaction levels. The Partners In Leadership team participated as observers during a rounding session so that they could provide feedback on what steps might be taken in order to improve the patient rounding process, with the ultimate goal of improving patient satisfaction scores.
  • A special session held with Board of Directors helped create alignment at the Board level around the Cultural Beliefs.

passing scissorsThe Impact of Cultural Beliefs

CEO of El Rio, Nancy Johnson, said this about Cultural Beliefs: “They help guide our actions every day and speak to us creating experiences for our patients and for each other in the organization. For example, a couple of years ago, if you asked someone in IT what they do for the organization, they might have answered, ‘I work on computers.’ Today they would answer, ‘I help provide a world-class experience for our patients by providing connectivity and information to help better care for our patients.’ So it’s bringing everyone around to our Key Results, whether they engage with the patient or not.”

  • Break Boundaries: This Cultural Belief has set in motion the breaking down of pre-existing silos. For instance, the pharmacy department embarked upon a program to better communicate with patients. To do so, the department educated within the organization—meeting with the business department, patient communications, and other teams to explain their roles and how they interface with patients. With this more open dialogue, the pharmacy department has improved their ability to share knowledge with patients.
  • Create Tomorrow: Since the implementation of the Cultural Beliefs and becoming a more patient-centered health center, the El Rio nursing staff has gone through many transitions to provide better care to patients. Now, patients have 24/7 access to nurses. In addition, El Rio is in the stages of considering a nurse practitioner residency program, which would help educate and “create tomorrow’s” healthcare leaders, further benefiting the future of their community.

Positive Key Results

With dedicated leadership and a patient-centered (and healthy) staff, along with using the latest innovations in technology and medicine, El Rio is positioned to prosper their community for years to come as Tucson’s world-class primary care provider.

  • World Class Experience for Staff and Patients – In conjunction with the standard quarterly patient satisfaction surveys El Rio already has in place, they have also implemented monthly surveys to determine both the satisfaction levels of their staff and of their patients. This more frequent approach to understanding levels of satisfaction allows them to make constant improvements to their methods and processes, benefiting community, patients, and employees.
  • Healthier Patients and Employees – El Rio has seen a number of improvements in this area. On the patient-side, with new measures and initiatives in place, El Rio has seen a 25% YoY decrease in emergency room visits and a growing wellness program geared towards preventative care.
  • On the staff-side, El Rio has implemented an online health risk appraisal to evaluate the health of their employees. This way they can take measures to improve the health of their employees if needs be. In fact, this initiative emphasizes their Cultural Belief of Value Health: “I take time for my own health to promote yours.”
  • Positive Financial Results – El Rio’s 2016 goal is to achieve an operating margin of 3.2% with a stretch goal of 4.0%. El Rio is currently operating at 3.5% for the year.

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