Family physician, author, blogger, speaker, physician leader.

Why UCLA Health System Will Win – The Importance of Service and Brand

An email from March 2012, my commentary and insights from an email titled – Why UCLA Health System Will Win. Enjoy!

I recently stumbled upon the current issue of UCLA MEDICINE, which had an interview with DAVID T. FEINBERG, M.D., M.B.A., CEO of UCLA Hospital System, Associate vice chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences and now, president of UCLA Health System who spoke on what it will take to be successful. He is most proud that the his organization is really “obsessed with being patient centered, in making sure that whoever comes through our doors is treated like they are someone in our own family. That’s our standard…”


99th percentile in patient satisfaction is not enough

Also though being in the 99th percentile in the patient satisfaction for the inpatient setting, Dr. Feinberg notes that it means that “eighty-five out of 100 patients would refer to us, but 15 would not. So while we are proud to be in the 99th percentile, what that really means is we are the best in an industry that is not known for good customer service. When we get to 100 out of 100 patients who would refer to us, then I will be truly happy.”

Finally, he wants to confidently tell the outside world, “’UCLA is the best in healthcare and we’re available.’ What does that mean? It means that not only are we available — that our specialty and subspeciality services have the capacity to see all the patients who want to come to us — but that we also respect you and we respect your time. So we need to have same-day appointments for everything. If you or a member of your family is told she has a lump in her breast, and you live in Bakersfield, you should be able to get in to see our cancer specialist within however long it takes you to drive in from Bakersfield… when you enter the room, everything you need is there for you — the right doctor, the right support personnel, the right equipment. Everything is coordinated around you, the patient. Let’s be honest, no one comes to see our specialists because they want to. Whether it’s the hospital or an outpatient clinic, if someone comes to us for specialty care, it is because he or she is sick and often frightened. Whatever is going on, it is messing up their day, and we have to get the concept that for them this is a crisis. So it is our obligation to make this visit as efficient and as comfortable for them as possible, with the underlying message being that it is a privilege for us to care for our patients.”

For organizations focused on being patient focused, this should sound familiar. Patients measure quality based on how quickly then can see doctors, how well they are listened to and have a role in their care, and have they feel. Providing exceptional service and being focused intensely on patients (who ultimately pay for doctors and staff salaries) is what matters in times of decreasing reimbursement.

UCLA Health System has a professional dress code for doctors and staff.

To make a good first impression, this starts in their admissions department. .

“We really feel that when a patient enters UCLA they should feel – Wow, this is UCLA. We’re setting the tone and you know we think that the presentation is really important.”

An April 2008 employee newsletter noted the initiation of a dress code.

It’s official! In January of this year, a new dress and personal appearance code was approved for UCLA hospital employees. Sticking to the dress code — and it’s really very simple, all we have to do is to dress professionally — gives us the easiest opportunity to make a positive first impression to our patients, their families and our visitors. A professional appearance communicates to everyone that we care about what we do and our commitment to excellent patient care. In turn, patients will feel safer under our care when we look the part.

Can I show you what it is? No, wisely they have restricted access to that information.

It’s more than service, access, quality, and dress, it is also how we communicate.

An orientation handbook from the Westwood campus dated January 2010, noted the following.


We want our patients, their families and our staff to have the best healthcare experience possible. As part of our World Class Service, we have committed to building relationships with those whom we serve and each other by adhering to our dress codes, taking our breaks in designated areas, using a standard phone and elevator etiquette and our basic communication standard, CICARE on every encounter. Our patients, their families, internal and external experts have identified that the following information is essential to building relationships with each other.

As UCLA Health System employees, it is our responsibility to treat patients, families, visitors and each other with courtesy, dignity, respect and professionalism. The following are specific expectations by which all employees are measured in their performance evaluations. 4

Service is also a focus on communication – The practice of C-I-CARE

Practice C-I-CARE when interacting with patients, their families, visitors, or internal departments.

For patient care interactions, use the following:

Connect with the patient and family members by addressing them as Mr./Ms., or by the name that they prefer.

Introduce yourself and your role.

Communicate what you are going to do, how long it is going to take, and how it will impact the patient.

Ask and anticipate patient and/or family needs, questions or concerns.

Respond to patient and/or family questions and requests with immediacy.

Exit courteously and/or with an explanation of what will come next (or when you will be back to check on them).

C-I-CARE Phone Etiquette

Practice C-I-CARE phone etiquette during all phone interactions:

• Before answering the phone, discontinue conversations or activities that may be heard by the caller.

• Answer the phone within 4 rings.

• Identify your department, give your name, and offer assistance such as, “May I help you?”


Always exercise courtesy whenever patients, family members and visitors are present. This includes the cafeteria, patient and visitor waiting areas, hallways, elevators, treatment areas and patient rooms.

• Make eye contact and smile with patients, visitors and staff. Offer a greeting when passing, such as, “Good morning.”

• Allow patients and visitors to go first when getting in/out of elevators, doorways and in the hallways.

• Offer to help visitors get to their destination, or provide directions.

• Speak in moderate tones; be aware of the level of your voice (speaking loudly or yelling) in the hallways or elevators.

• Demonstrate professional behavior whenever patients, family members or visitors are present. Avoid lying down, sleeping, removing shoes, using hospital linen, eating, laughing or speaking loudly or disruptively. Avoid boisterous behavior in areas within earshot of patients and visitors.

• Maintain appropriate conversations, being respectful of patient and employee confidentiality.

Conflicts or disagreements of a work-related or personal nature should be discussed where patients, their families or visitors are not present.

• In order to provide a safe environment of care, speak only English or the language of the patient/visitor you are helping. Arrange for interpretation services when needed.

• Personal cell phones or listening devices may only be used during break times and only in designated break areas.


• Respect privacy and dignity.

• Knock on a patient’s door before entering and ask permission to enter.

• Ask permission before examining a patient, and provide an explanation of the examination or procedure.

• Do not make disparaging remarks about other departments or staff in front of patients or visitors.

• Respect individual and cultural differences.


Maintain professionalism in the presence of patients, their families, visitors or co-workers.

• Show pride by maintaining professional appearance while on duty. Adhere to organizational appearance standards. Wear name badge appropriately.

• Demonstrate an ongoing responsibility and commitment through good attendance and by being on time to work.

• Demonstrate pride in UCLA Health System by keeping areas clean and safe.

• When within hearing of any patients, family members, visitors or staff members, keep comments about patients, co-workers, physicians or any part of UCLA Health System positive and appropriate.

• Teamwork: recognize that each person has an area of expertise and that his or her contribution is valuable.

Patients and staff provide feedback about their healthcare experience in our hospitals and clinics through ongoing patient and staff surveys which are shared with faculty and staff throughout the organization. Opportunities for improvement are identified and great feedback and performance is recognized and celebrated. Our STAR Program recognizes and awards those individuals whom patients and colleagues have identified made a difference in their experience and demonstrated “C-I-CARE” in their interactions.

So if you lead a hospital system, medical group, or other health care delivery system, ask yourself the following:

  • Do you believe patient satisfaction and service matter in this new era of competition?
  • If you do, will you do everything possible and lead changes to ensure you and your teams will be successful, not when it is easy, but when it is hard?
  • Will you consider and support something as simple as supporting a professional dress policy for doctors and staff and other little intangible things which can be as important as everything else we do to demonstrate to patients and the public how truly different you are?

Because to win, it will be everything that matters.
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