Mercy is the seventh largest Catholic health system in the United States, operating 45 hospitals in four Midwestern states, as well as over 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities. While rooted in the legacy and heritage of the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy’s vision for transforming health in the communities it serves is markedly forward-looking. Consistently voted "Most Wired" by the American Hospital Association, Mercy has led the way in healthcare innovation. It was among the first health systems in the U.S. to implement a fully integrated electronic records system, and their Virtual Care Center is the first such health facility in the world.
Yet improving care delivery requires more than just great technology. Healing is a human-centered endeavor. As competition between large health systems in the Midwest continues to intensify, and retail giants such as CVS and Walgreens expand patients’ options with in-store clinics, traditional providers like Mercy must adopt more consumer-centric approaches to care delivery.
Mercy sought Continuum’s help to understand more deeply the needs of patients across its expansive system of care facilities, and to identify emerging customer-centered trends within and outside of the healthcare industry. By integrating these insights into its strategic plan, Mercy hoped to deliver a best-in-class patient experience consistently across its network.
Research & Insights
To transform Mercy’s care-delivery model, we first needed to promote understanding and secure buy-in for patient-centricity across Mercy’s network of 40,000 employees. This was a large undertaking; the different clinics, hospitals, campuses, and administrative offices across a health system often have their own cultures and distinct ways of working.
To create alignment across such a diverse community of employees, we adapted the typical Continuum style of communicating with our client. Rather than meeting periodically with a handful of executive-level stakeholders, we interviewed the health system’s key clinical and administrative leaders across these different communities. We also presented our findings and research to 150 of Mercy’s health professionals in collaborative work sessions.
Our research extended beyond Mercy’s walls, into patients’ homes, where most health-related activities take place. We conducted one-on-one interviews with both patients and non-patients in communities across Missouri and Arkansas. These conversations illuminated salient insights on what people need from a care provider and what they value most about the patient-provider relationship.
We helped Mercy look beyond the healthcare context, to a wide range of organizations providing exceptional customer experiences. We selected 15 organizations across nine industries—some highly regulated, others not; some very established, others not. Digging into these organizations’ business approaches and operations, we uncovered four traits that, together, formed a customer-centric operating model.
We also asked what each organization’s “big bet” was: Where did they invest most heavily in the customer experience and expect the greatest return? By expanding their purview, Mercy’s leaders drew inspiration for improving patient experience from analogous innovations outside of healthcare.
Our team provided Mercy with a detailed strategic blueprint for how the health system can shift their current operations toward a patient-centered model, one that complemented their patient-centric care model. We identified four opportunity areas for Mercy to focus their efforts to drive the greatest impact and become more consumer-centered. This included a plan for providing a continuum of care that revolved around the patient and his or her particular life stage.
Shortly after the project concluded, Mercy shared its new patient-centric operating model at a Mercy-wide conference of several-hundred health professionals. The insights from our research influenced the health system’s strategic growth plan for the next five years, and helped Mercy to reach more patients.
Shannon Sock, Mercy’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Chief Financial Officer, explained the impact of this project on their strategic planning:
“As part of our strategic planning process, it was important for us to more fully understand the rising wave of consumerism confronting health care providers. We want to build meaningful relationships with consumers that go well beyond the episode of care, and our work with Continuum helped engage many across our ministry in both understanding the need as well as setting forth a pathway toward that goal.”