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9 healthcare leaders on transforming healthcare: Inside NCC 2022

Press Ganey’s annual National Client Conference (NCC) draws leaders from the nation’s top healthcare organizations. This year’s event brought together Northwell Health's Michael Dowling, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare's Michael Ugwueke, Grammy Award-winner Sheryl Crow, and more—with thousands of healthcare leaders tuning in virtually and driving record engagement during the sessions.

Read on for key learnings and insights that will help the industry bounce back from COVID-19 and build a stronger, more resilient healthcare ecosystem together.


1. Think of patients as customers—Duly Health & Care

In all other aspects of the healthcare journey, patients exhibit consumer-like behaviors and have higher expectations for the end-to-end experience—from pre-appointment search to post-care follow-up. Duly Health & Care aims to disrupt the traditional healthcare model, understanding that a person’s health maybe better served by challenging the status quo and bringing focus back to quality of human-to-human interaction. At the center of Duly's vision is helping patients navigate care holistically—not just in person, within a physical space, but, just as critically, between healthcare visits. 

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“At the end of the day, the thing that would be most transformative, if you can pull it off, would be helping patients navigate the healthcare system. Whether you are famous or don't know a soul, it is difficult to navigate, and that is unacceptable.”

—Steve Nelson, CEO, Duly Health & Care


2. Keep zero harm at the heart of care transformation

“First, do no harm” is a fundamental principle of the healthcare industry—one that, historically, meant minimizing physical harm for patients. But today, Press Ganey’s Chief Safety and Transformation Officer Dr. Tejal Gandhi argues, we need a broader definition of “harm.” Post-pandemic, driving toward zero harm requires a focus not just physical harm, but psychological harm, socio-behavioral harm, financial harm, and emotional harm—for patients as well as the workforce—across the entire continuum of care. The goal of zero harm requires a cohesive effort to impact indicators across the continuum of care, including quality, employee engagement, and overall patient experience. 

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3. Lead with compassion and vulnerability—Bozeman Health

The healthcare industry faces unique and complex workforce challenges. But, in addressing these challenges, as Bozeman Health contends, sometimes the simplest approach works best. This is especially true when it comes to engaging employees and, in turn, helping patients understand the organization’s core values and mission. To ensure leaders continually and consistently send the right message, Bozeman sets the conversation at a human level. Leaders establish an emotional connection between team members, providing a strong foundation to transparently share what they’re going through and how they feel.

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“When you are clear, you are kind. Think about this notion—that we are kind to our communities, to our employees, to the individual members of our team—when we share clear expectations. What matters most to us. Where we want to go as an organization. And we do it in a way that’s memorable—connected with emotional humanity that, as leaders, we know will burn into the hearts and minds of our teams.”

—John Hill, President and CEO, Bozeman Health


4. Speak like a human—Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Leaders at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have dropped the jargon in favor of communicating with staff like human beings. Human-level communication helps Vanderbilt break down silos and build empathy: When employees feel leaders understand what they’re going through, they feel more connected to the organization and are less likely to leave healthcare. Speaking in plain, uncomplicated language also facilitates problem solving, strengthens relationships, and establishes a foundation of trust between employees and leaders as well as the institution and the community it serves.  

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5. Build equity into your data strategy—Mount Sinai Health System

Confronting barriers to equity can be formidable—and even uncomfortable. Leadership at Mount Sinai Health System meets these obstacles head-on. They leverage HCAHPS to collect race and ethnicity data at the point of registration, then use that data to identify disparities in care and feedback collection. During this process, engaging staff helps shift employees’ mindsets to actively think about equitable care and better serve patients of all backgrounds. 

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6. Focus on DEI to retain workers

The pandemic, and the great resignation that came with it, further stressed healthcare's overtaxed workforce. As a result, employee engagement and retention took a hit. Segmenting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) data can help leaders peel back the onion to understand how to better support and retain workers. Press Ganey's research shows that the more an organization prioritizes DEI, the more engaged the workforce is. And, according to our Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics Deirdre Mylod, PhD, and Chief Human Resources Officer Casey Willis-Abner, this proves DEI is not only a worthy aspiration, but it’s an essential part of team member retention too. 

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7. Remember: Each hospital is part of a community—Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare

Hospitals aren’t just buildings used for treating patients—they’re centers that serve communities, including the individuals who work within them. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare supports employees’ educational pursuits to create opportunities for its caregivers and encourage them to excel professionally. Empowering staff with the tools they need to grow in their careers is a critical strategy in retaining high-performing employees, especially when companies outside of the healthcare industry offer lucrative incentives and employment perks. 

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“At the end of the day, how are you impacting the care that our patients rightly deserve? If the patients don’t feel welcome, if they don’t feel the facility represents them, or people don’t look like them, it makes things harder.”

—Michael Ugwueke, President and CEO, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare


8. Remember what we learned during the pandemic—Northwell Health

The healthcare industry had to make big changes during the pandemic, with more agility than previously thought possible. Telemedicine took off, remote communication proliferated, and executives learned the critical importance of taking care of staff. Northwell Health President and CEO Michael J. Dowling stresses that this work must continue. Healthcare leaders must be hands-on—walking the hospital floors and engaging with staff daily—to build upon the extraordinary innovations and lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis, both within healthcare and the world. 

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“We need to give oxygen to hope and positivity. We need to be upbeat. We need to inspire. We need to suggest that there’s a wonderful world out there—that we are better than this. We can do better, we can change our organizations, which we have to, but we can change the environment around our organizations, and we can change the world that we live in.”

—Michael Dowling, President and CEO, Northwell Health


9. Don’t forget to recharge

Grammy Award-winner and bona fide rock star Sheryl Crow reminds us how important it is to take care of ourselves so we may better care for others. She's experienced this first-hand during her lengthy career in entertainment. During her second tour, she and her band performed at a children’s hospital in every city they visited to remind themselves why they love what they do. In a field as high pressure as healthcare, employees must be able to disconnect from work to improve resilience, preserve their emotional well-being, and prevent burnout. So, spend time with family and loved ones. Find joy in hobbies and creative pursuits. Take time to reflect, give thanks, and express gratitude.

Or maybe just soak up the sun

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Watch these videos and more in our resource center. If you’re interested in discussing any of these topics—or more—with one of our experts, reach out here.

About the author

As Chief Client Officer, Dan, along with his team, is responsible for ensuring ongoing strategic client partnerships. Dan oversees the Sales and Client Management teams across the Press Ganey enterprise. These teams work closely with clients to help them understand what consumers expect, caregivers need, and patients experience. Dan has been a trusted adviser to hundreds of healthcare organizations from across the nation over the past decade, joining Press Ganey in 2016 through the acquisition of Avatar Solutions.

Profile Photo of Dan Litwer