Department Spotlight: Patient Experience

By: Alana Ridge

September 29, 2023

The Patient Experience department at Renown Health pose for a group photo in front of a sign reading, "We're on your side and at your service."

At Renown Health, our commitment to the experience of all our patients and guests is not just a mission – it's a way of life. Our unwavering dedication to creating exceptional experiences for the communities we serve is what sets us apart. Every day, we strive to build a service culture of excellence, one that ensures that every person who walks through our doors has an extraordinary encounter that exceeds their expectations. 

Renown’s Patient Experience department is the team that fulfills this mission and more. These passionate individuals intimately understand that top-of-the-line service involves the entire healthcare continuum, from the first phone call when scheduling an appointment to the final discharge and follow-up instructions and everything in between. With this collective dedication, Patient Experience is consistently on a journey to redefine what it means to leave a lasting impact in the minds of patients, setting a new standard for healthcare excellence in our community. 

Our In-House Jack-of-All-Trades 

It takes a village to ensure every patient and guest continues to have a positive experience at every Renown location and maintains trust in our providers and employees. Our Patient Experience team serves as the mayors of that village, encompassing four main aspects of healthcare service: 

  • Service Excellence: Compiles, reviews and resolves patient complaints and concerns to help with service recovery and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Volunteer Services: Enhances the patient experience by leveraging dedicated youth, adult and college-aged volunteers in a variety of volunteer programs, including pet therapy, healing arts, hospice and more.
  • Language Access: Provides qualified interpretation and translation services to assist our limited- or non-English-speaking populations.
  • Data Management: Uses patient experience data, research and surveys to prioritize system, location and unit-specific service needs to improve clinical and quality outcomes. 

“Because our department has many segments, no day is the same, which keeps the work week exciting,” said Shelbi Whitehead, Manager of Patient Experience. “Whether we are hosting a pet therapy parade for patients, de-escalating and rounding with upset patients to provide service recovery, offering interpretations for our Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients, or managing data for the organization, we have one goal in mind: to enhance the experience for our patients and guests at Renown Health.”  

Cultivating a sense of community and fostering trust in our health system, the Service Excellence team steps in to ensure no concern goes unnoticed and every opportunity to make a positive chance is addressed. 

“My day consists of listening to patient concerns, connecting with different department leaders and providing support, and working on projects to improve processes,” said Julianne Revilla, Customer Experience Specialist. “To help enhance the patient experience, I round with patients on different floors to know more about their stay and experience with us. If they have any issues or concerns, I let floor staff know and do our best to resolve the issue in the moment.” 

“My team and I have an amazing opportunity to work with multiple leaders throughout the organization to resolve any patient concerns and provide valuable feedback on how patients are doing while using services that we offer,” added Ricky Garcia Sanchez, Senior Patient Experience Specialist. “A typical day will involve calling patients, rounding with patients, communicating with leaders to resolve events, handling grievances and staying in compliance with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines.” 

“It’s all about hearing what is upsetting them and letting them know that we care about them,” added Shay Morgan, Customer Experience Specialist. “We ask ourselves, what is the main concern the patient has, and what is it they are seeking? From there, we do our internal investigation through Midas and send it to leadership, and then we find a reasonable and appropriate solution or response to let the patient know we are looking into their concern.” 

As the only not-for-profit health system in the region, Renown depends on the dedicated service of our volunteers. Our Volunteer Services team deploys volunteers across many programs who make a significant difference in the lives of patients and their families. 

“On a typical day, I may be going between the volunteer information desks assisting that team with anything that comes up while they are helping guests,” said Wendy Peukert, Volunteer Coordinator. “We find wheelchairs for departments, provide guest escorts, deliver flowers and mail to patients, locate doctors’ appointments or anything else that helps someone that walks in the door. We ensure all our programs go smoothly by planning ahead while also being flexible to be ready for anything that comes our way and by keeping communication open with our volunteers. Patients and guests being greeted by friendly, knowledgeable volunteers who show empathy and care is my goal!” 

“Some of my best days at Renown are volunteering with my dog Moose, who is a certified therapy dog, and watching the healing he provides to patients and employees,” added Shelbi Whitehead. 

At Renown, we believe that language should never be a barrier to receiving care. Our Language Access team ensures that this goal is realized through providing expert interpretation and translation services. 

“Renown has many different resources we use to ensure LEP patients and visitors receive a positive, quality visit to our health system,” said Seth Rubin, Supervisor of Language Access. “With signage strategically placed at front desks and check-in areas, patients can point to their preferred language, and we can use the Language Line iPads, phone lines or a dual-role Qualified Medical Interpreter to communicate with the patient or visitor. Within EPIC, we can also set a patient’s preferred language indicating to Renown staff what language to use with the patient and prepare forms in that language. I always ensure all patients are provided with these proper language services, and I also help with employees taking our online interpreter certification course, as well as help when a department needs new Language Line equipment. Additionally, I enjoy meeting with community groups to stay informed on community updates, events and trends around language, immigration and more.” 

Renown values and utilizes the opinions of our patients across all corners of our health system Maintaining service transparency is a promise, and that promise is fulfilled by our Data Management team, who use all the research and survey tools at their disposal. 

“My daily work includes a lot of updating scorecards across the network, working with the tech teams to ensure the patient data is getting to the right places, training leaders, analyzing market data and maintaining the reports that go to every corner of Renown,” said Brooke Cyphers, Market Data Analyst. “Through a partnership with our patient satisfaction survey vendor, PRC, Renown ensures data integrity, neutrality and credibility in surveying patients in all our care areas. The data from completed surveys are compiled and disseminated to our providers and leadership at all levels with the goal of transparency and patient-centric practice. These surveys are incredibly important to process improvement directly targeted at addressing areas that have been mentioned by our patients. I love it when people reach out to dive into a particular initiative they want to track or an issue they want insights on.” 

In their relentless pursuit of excellence in service across many programs, the Patient Experience team remains steadfast in their commitment to delivering the highest quality care and experiences. 

Rooted in Renown 

While team members within the Patient Experience department come from all walks of life, one common theme remains the same: they are all devoted to Renown and the impact our health system has on the community at large. Many of these employees had several years of Renown experience under their belt before they joined the team. 

“I was a third grade teacher before I moved to Renown seven years ago; I started in the Transformational Health Care department learning about all the departments around the organization and understanding and helping to improve our processes,” said Whitney Hansen, Director of Patient Experience. “Eventually, I moved into operational leadership in the Medical Group where I got to work directly with patients every day. I have been fortunate to be able to use those varied experiences and relationships across the organization in my role within the patient experience department.” 

Renown is proud to employ influential professionals who stepped up to the plate to mentor several Patient Experience team members, many of whom they attribute their passion and success in the department to. 

“I have been with Renown for almost four years,” said Ricky Garcia Sanchez. “I became an intern during my undergrad studies at the University of Nevada, Reno and shadowed my current Director Whitney Hansen. I was hired as a Patient Access Representative for the Oncology Outpatient clinic upon getting my bachelor’s degree. I was then given an opportunity to apply for my current position and have been in Service Excellence for nearly two years.” 

“I started my career with Renown as an Admin Assistant in 2017 with Renown Home Health as a way to get my foot in the door, show quality work and learn the organization, but I really found my calling in the fall of 2019 when Rebecca Doheny, Director of Quality Initiatives, approached me with a project to bring the Midas queue back down to normal ranges,” added Brooke Cyphers. “I found that in working in Patient Experience, I could impact the lives of the people we serve in our community. I fell in love with the work and loved being able to help patients find resolutions to sometimes very difficult problems. Never in my life have I felt that true marrying of my passions and abilities as I do now. Taking the data that we get from patient surveys and getting it into the leaders’ and providers’ hands, seeing the comments move from numbers on a page to actionable projects for our clinics, providing the teams with insights into possible process improvements and driving change for our network are the things make me excited to come to work every day.” 

Easily aligning with our people-first culture led by our President & CEO Dr. Brian Erling, everyone in Patient Experience genuinely enjoys working with the diverse array of people that visit Renown on a daily basis. 

“I have always loved working with people; that’s why I loved working in the service industry, but I wanted a job that felt like it had more impact,” said Shay Morgan. “I came across this position online, and I felt like it was perfect. I get to hear from patients what they want and where they aren’t satisfied, and I enjoy being able to turn their experience into something more positive.” 

“I have been with Renown for five years; I started as a Patient Safety Assistant while in college and then became a Community Health Worker once I graduated,” added Julianne Revilla. “I am now a Customer Experience Specialist with the Patient Experience team. I became interested in improving patient experience because of my interest in improving the overall quality of care and advocating for our patients and the community.”   

Whether it’s a leader or an individual collaborator, this team is incredibly dedicated to each other’s success and wellbeing, celebrating each other’s accomplishments and working together to achieve common goals. 

“I came to Renown with experience in marketing, event planning and design and started as an Event Specialist on the Renown Marketing & Communications team; after three years, I was promoted to the Manager of Patient Experience where I have been for two years,” said Shelbi Whitehead. “We have a small but mighty and diverse team that manages important departments within the organization. My goal is to ensure my team feels supported to complete their work and achieve their career aspirations while also building a great department culture and safe place to spend their workdays.” 

The Pride of Patient Experience 

Overseeing so many aspects of Renown’s commitment to excellent service, the Patient Experience team surely has a lot to be proud of, especially as they have experienced significant growth throughout trying times, such as the pandemic. 

“I am proud of many accomplishments from our department,” said Shelbi Whitehead. “We have grown our volunteer program substantially, which was a great challenge after COVID to safely bring back and retain loyal volunteers. We decreased our patient monetary write-offs after establishing an algorithm to get processes standardized. We are constantly working to ensure we are providing a great experience to our patients who don’t speak English, whether that is through in person interpretation or utilizing our partner Language Line.” 

Creating and executing plans that directly benefit our patients is a huge part of what helps this team thrive every day. 

“I created a Language Access Plan for the organization that outlines the steps taken and need for language services within the organization,” added Seth Rubin. “Additionally, I am proud of the connections I have made in the community through interacting with stakeholder groups, and collecting resources from the community such as our newest affiliation with the University of Nevada, Reno’s International Center. I have been in this role almost a year, and I feel like I have accomplished a lot!” 

Data and communication hold equal importance to this department, and for good reason: both have a significant impact on the operations of our organization and our efforts in continuous improvement. 

“We have had a lot of changes to the patient satisfaction surveys this year,” said Brooke Cyphers. “When we changed the reporting from Fiscal Year to Calendar Year and from Percentage Top Box to Percentile Rankings, we saw an opportunity to create a standard suite of reports that ensures all our departments are getting comparable and complete data. This resulted in the creation of over 6,500 new reports for our network going out to leaders of all levels and providers in all locations. It has been so rewarding to see the data reaching all the places it needs to go to affect change. We have also changed modality on a number of our studies, moving from phone calls to texts and emails. This has increased our sample sizes by two to five times and even more dramatically increased the number of patient comments. The modality change is increasing the value of data we provide all over the network and providing essential insights into how to improve our interactions for the betterment of our patients.” 

“A big key to our success is communication,” added Ricky Garcia Sanchez. “As a team, our communication is critical to ensure we can resolve events in a timely manner. We have great standing relationships with other departments to bring awareness to the comments and complaints. A big component to ensure patient satisfaction is listening to the patient and their concerns. Oftentimes, when a patient is upset, they just want to be heard, and by spending that extra time to listen to the patient, it helps build the patients’ confidence and satisfaction with Renown.” 

This team are very grateful to the people who have helped them achieve their goals, starting with their strong leadership. 

“I would like to recognize my leadership Whitney Hansen and Shelbi Whitehead,” said Julianne Revilla.  “I have only been in this role for about a year, and they have provided me so much support. The job we do is not always the easiest, and having a strong leadership who is always there when needed, ready to take a call and provide constant support and encouragement is something I am very appreciative of coming into this team.” 

Beyond their own team, these employees are emphatically thankful for many other departments across Renown, whether clinical and patient-facing or non-clinical and behind-the-scenes. 

“I work daily with the Security team, and they go out of their way to support our department by keeping us informed of safety events, changes around the hospital and anything that would affect the volunteers,” said Wendy Peukert. 

“I am so thankful for the constant help of the Renown Business Intelligence team,” added Brooke Cyphers. “With all the changes that we have had this year, they have worked diligently to make sure that the data on the backside is working the way it should. They are the silent heroes that make my job possible.” 

“Another team I would like to recognize and thank is the Emergency Department Care Management/Social Work team,” added Seth Rubin. “They have been extremely helpful in communicating interpretation needs for patients visiting the emergency department and always go above and beyond to make patients feel welcome and comfortable while visiting Renown.” 

Ensuring that every patient’s journey is marked by exceptional care and support, the Patient Experience team stands strong in their unwavering commitment to improving healthcare experiences for all who visit Renown. 

“Patient Experience has become a focus of Renown, as we support the entire organization. Our team has been able to be involved in determining goals and tactics to improve how our patients experience their care while they are here. I am proud to lead a department where every person on our team is a champion for our patients, as well as a supporter of the clinical teams that provide care,” closes Whitney Hansen. 
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