RL Insider Interview: Carol Santalucia

March 31, 2016 Stephanie Radcliffe

Carol Santalucia is a seasoned healthcare leader with a passion and commitment to enhancing the patient experience. After 28 years in various service excellence and leadership roles at Cleveland Clinic, Carol began her own healthcare consulting practice, Santalucia Group, LLC. RL asked her to share her experiences and advice for enhancing and sustaining an exceptional experience for patients, families, visitors and employees.

After 28 years at Cleveland Clinic in various patient experience leadership roles, you started your own consulting firm recently. How has the transition been from working in a hospital to running your own business?
The transition has been easier than I thought! I think that is because, for me, the work is still focused on making a difference in the delivery of healthcare. Whether I’m doing the work at Cleveland Clinic or in other hospitals across the country, if the focus is the same then the passion I feel for this work is still there. That is what I focus on, so it was not a difficult transition.

What do you love most about your work?
Helping the caregivers. The job of the caregiver is not easy. It can be stressful and demanding. When I am able to help the caregiver better connect to the passion that brought them into healthcare in the first place, it is extremely rewarding. Teaching communication and team building skills to caregivers (both front-line and leaders) helps create a stronger culture where caregivers can flourish. And then the patient is better served. To be a part of this is such a privilege.

What role do you think technology plays in patient experience?
I think that technology plays a significant role in patient experience. When we can do things in a more efficient way, and measure the impact of actions and initiatives, we can make great progress in our efforts. More and more hospitals and healthcare organizations are using technology in a number of ways that can contribute positively to the patient experience. For example, using technology to track and trend safety incidents and patient complaints can lead to changes in how we deliver care.

What has been your greatest professional triumph? 
The creation of a very comprehensive communication model for Cleveland Clinic while I worked there. It has helped caregivers keep the focus on good communication with patients, their families and each other. I am very proud of the impact this has had not only at Cleveland Clinic, but also throughout the healthcare industry.

We often hear from clients that one of their biggest challenges in using data to enact change. What ways are organizations using grievance data to improve patient experience?
The first thing is that the organization must be committed to using the data for change and not just to collect data. This often means charging a group of people with reviewing the data and developing process improvement teams to address the issues. It also means giving them the resources to do so. I have seen some great examples of using the data in this way through multidisciplinary teams, and have resulted some great PI projects.

Complying with CMS and state guidelines is a large part of the grievance process. How can hospitals make sure they're ready?
It is so important to do these processes effectively and efficiently, so that it is not the focus of the work being done but just a piece of it. This can be achieved by being up to date on the guidelines and having systems in place to make tracking the issues seamless. Take advantage of professional organizations to network with for best practices can be extremely helpful.

How can hospitals' patient advocacy, risk management and patient experience departments better align themselves?
The best way to do this is through great communication and team work. Departments need to work together to solve problems and develop strategies so that they are aligned in a deliberate and strategic way. Bring the leaders (and some front-line caregivers) together to determine how goals and strategies can be better aligned. Work through multidisciplinary teams to problem solve. Work together to better understand the role and perspective of the other person.

Want to hear more from Carol?

Attend the Santalucia Group's free upcoming webinar on May 11th from 1-2pm (EST), The Evolving Role of Patient Advocacy, Patient Experience and Risk Management, hosted by RL Solutions. Hear from a panel of experts in each of these disciplines about how these roles are evolving and what is necessary to meet the current demands of the healthcare industry.


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