inova health system

Expert Interview Series, Episode 1: J. Knox Singleton, former CEO of Inova Health System

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Gert Volmer

Paul Jaglowski, CEO of Feedtrail Inc., sits down with Knox Singleton CEO of Inova Health System to discuss the imperative of prioritizing the patient experience.

Prior to retiring earlier this year, John “Knox” Singleton served as the Chief Executive Officer of Inova Health System, the Washington, D.C., region’s leading not-for-profit health care system, for 35 years. Mr. Singleton was named CEO of the Year in 2015 by the Washington Business Journal and received the Virginia Governor’s award in 2004. During his tenure Mr. Singleton oversaw the evolution of Inova from a three hospital, $500 million enterprise with 1,000 employees to a $3.5 billion healthcare system with five hospitals, a health insurance company and over a hundred ambulatory service locations and 17,000 employees. Inova today provides over $200 million annually in free services to the community and is recognized as one of the most sophisticated, successful not-for-profit health systems in the nation.

Prioritizing the patient experience

It’s paramount that healthcare teams prioritize both uncovering and understanding the process pitfalls that produce gaps in their team’s ability to deliver quality care. Having real-time transparency into how patients perceive the care they receive is critical. If organizations continuously commit to providing real-time visibility into patient satisfaction, care teams will be more effective at meeting their patient needs.

PAUL: Over the past decade, CMS has led the push for healthcare organizations to more closely monitor patient satisfaction. With the introduction of CAHPS, hospitals are being directly incentivized to provide a higher quality of care. How have you seen that impact the way healthcare organizations are prioritizing the patient experience? 

KNOX: I think value-based healthcare has had a tremendous impact on healthcare organizations. From my lens, the biggest change has been that leadership is realizing that they don’t have adequate information management systems in place to monitor the quality metrics, the experience metrics, and the safety metrics. If they can’t measure these metrics in real time then they are at a noticeable disadvantage. This, in turn, makes it impossible for teams across organizations to create better practices. By investing in a deeper understanding of the metrics, both for outcome and process tracking, healthcare teams can be far more equipped to evaluate and impact the patient’s experience in real time. 

Invest in deeper understanding

PAUL: Traditionally speaking, the ways in which providers have learned from their patients are through CAHPS surveying and nurse rounding. How do you think providers will best learn from patients in the future? 

KNOX: It’s paramount that healthcare teams prioritize both uncovering and understanding the process pitfalls that produce gaps in their team’s ability to deliver quality care. Having real-time transparency into how patients perceive the care they receive is critical. If you want to be a great organization, your care teams cannot afford to wait weeks to learn about the specific experiences their patients have. As such, healthcare teams must have a reliable way to collect real-time, unbiased patient feedback so they can ensure a positive patient experience during the course of normal clinical rounds. 

Real-time patient feedback

PAUL: Knox, your organization relies on the Feedtrail platform to collect patient feedback in real time, rather than letting feedback go undetected until weeks after the fact when it shows up on CAHPS. How has this helped the provision of care at your hospital? 

KNOX: I can’t overemphasize how much value comes from having a formal system like Feedtrail in place to first uncover those opportunities for improvement and then to empower the team to make those adjustments in real time. As someone who has devoted an entire career to healthcare leadership, it’s really gratifying for me to see the emerging consensus around the importance of developing patient-centric cultures. The best way to do this is by investing in real time patient feedback and information management platforms like Feedtrail that enable our teams to be more effective before that patient has even left. It’s clear that Feedtrail is setting the standard for empowering employees and stakeholders across all boundaries to come together – often for the first time – and have the quality of information that they need to be able to solve problems, fill gaps in work processes, listen to patients’ expectations, and understand what things work to move us toward a better outcome.

Transparency & ROI

Paul: From an executive leadership lens, it sounds like you use real time feedback to optimize the patient experience. What kind of ROI is associated with it? 

KNOX: By embracing a culture that values transparency and feedback, you get better margins, better topline, better repeat business, lower cost of acquiring and retaining customers. Organizations that become great are successful at creating a culture – and have the tools to support that culture – where people rely on finding those gaps and those opportunities for improvement, and then engage in making the changes to improve. This positive cycle reinforces the patient-centric culture, improves patient satisfaction and increases economic returns at just about every level.

Patient-centricity

PAUL: You’ve mentioned that our platform has been able to turn patients into promoters. Why has this been important to you, and how do you go about keeping patient satisfaction the focus day in and day out? 

KNOX: It’s important to point out that the cheapest customer you have is the customer that you retain, not the one that you must attract fresh. The more patient centric an organization is, the higher the likelihood that the patient will return for future care. 

There are two essential requirements for this to occur. The first is building a culture that values transparency and discovering opportunities for improvement. The second is making sure that you have a way to generate clarity around what you are trying to improve. Learning from patients on a quarterly basis is not enough. Teams need to learn in real time from every patient experience so that they can consistently uncover how to deliver the best care possible. 

If organizations commit to providing real-time visibility into patient satisfaction, I wholeheartedly believe that their employees will be more effective at meeting patient needs. In addition, organizations are going to be more effective at retaining and developing their employees to do what they love most – being part of a high-performing team and doing work that really matters.

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