Q&A: Wellstar Health System CEO on personalizing care

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Wellstar Health System recently revealed a brand identity and logo that, according to the Marietta, Ga.-based system, “refined its mission, vision and values.” The company relied on its 2019 community health needs assessment survey, along with interviews with local residents to identify what patients want. The result, according to President and CEO Candice Saunders, is more personalized care, treating patients as a whole person and collaboration with organizations that provide more than healthcare. Modern Healthcare Editor Aurora Aguilar recently spoke with Saunders about the new campaign.

Why undergo this effort?

Saunders: Over the last 18 months, we did a lot of listening and learning from our communities, patients, families, team members and our partners in the community—over 8,000 Georgians—and we learned what they wanted and needed and expected from a healthcare system. It wasn’t new information to us, but it helped us to really focus in on what was important to our consumers, and that really lined up nicely with what is important to our team members and our physicians. What we heard was that they want care that offers compassion and empathy, so they wanted a healthcare company that got to know them. They want to have a partnership and control over their choices and how and when they get their healthcare.

So how will that change what you do?

Saunders: We grew the company significantly in 2016 when we doubled in size through a lot of major mergers and acquisitions. And so with that, we brought in a lot of new team members. And they all came with their histories and experiences. The research we did is another opportunity to bring all of us together with this common purpose and identity of more than healthcare—people care. We included the team members and the physicians in this research. And we launched this and we brought this to life with them first because we knew that we were going to need 25,000 ambassadors.

As we continue to grow and evolve based on this listening, we’re now covering a lot of new communities throughout the Atlanta market and parts of Georgia. We’re focused on continuously enhancing how we take care of people across our system and across the state, both within and outside the walls of WellStar. We started serving the community many years ago, primarily as a hospital system, but today, as an integrated health system, we’re able to provide a whole network of care: hospitals, outpatient services, physician services, post-acute, nursing home, home-care services. At the end of all this, it’s about strengthening our system in order to be where our patients and the community need us. We want to be a partner for every age and every stage of life.

How will the research affect service lines?

Saunders: We’ve always had very strong clinical service lines that help us to ensure that programs like cardiovascular, cancer services, neurosciences, were keeping up on the state-of-the-art technology, making sure that our processes are the most modern, using evidence-based guidelines. But technology also is playing a key role in helping us ensure this with our physician team members and patients. And we have one electronic medical record (Epic) across our whole health system, all aspects of our integrated delivery system. MyChart really enables us to follow the patient throughout their journey and their contacts with our health system. That technology plays a key part.

We also are implementing a digital platform so that we’re following the patient across all the encounters and contacts they’re having with our health system. Even if they haven’t had a clinical need, outside our hospitals or our doctors’ offices or our outpatient services, we continue to see important initiatives take flight throughout the communities we serve. Many of our efforts today are working hand-in-hand with our community partners, from improving literacy rates to addressing food insecurity. We have over 450 community partnerships.

It’s our mission to continue to reinvest in the Georgia communities we serve by providing access to personalized, compassionate care for those who need it most.

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