Developing a Culture of Excellence

By Dennis Knox, contributor.

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I assume that most healthcare providers are in the midst of a cultural transformation. Every CEO is trying to create a culture of excellence. Specifically, this means getting the staff in your organization individually and collectively say, do, and believe in the best way of running your healthcare institution.

Like building the nation’s interstate system, creating a culture of excellence is an ongoing, sometimes daunting task and it can take years. Why are you undergoing this effort? It’s because your culture and operations are intertwined. The more you improve your culture, the better will be the quality of your service delivery, outcomes, and revenues.


Dennis Knox


Culture Is What We Say, Do and Believe

When it comes to “say” I enjoy drinking Snapple Tea and I usually check out the Snapple Real Fact under each lid. Snapple Real Fact # 820 is: “Relative to size, the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body”. Why? This “powerful” muscle, some believe, can also be the most dangerous part of the human body. You need your tongue to speak, and a caregiver’s speech can be dangerous to your institution or it can be beneficial. A person can be deceptive and lying (forked-tongued) or clearly expressive and eloquent (silver-tongued). Ergo, depending on the path we choose in our institutional culture we can be hurtful or helpful by what we say.

Now let’s go on to “do”. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Cutting to the chase, Emerson was saying that actions speak louder than words. Taking this a step further, the act of doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason is about integrity and integrity is fundamental to developing a productive and effective culture.

That reminds me of the Liberty Mutual commercials about paying good deeds forward. There are so many small acts of kindness that can leave a lasting impression every person with whom we come into contact. Believe me, our acts are noticeable. Sadly though, they only seem to stand out because they’re the exception and not the rule. We should be doing these good deeds at every opportunity so that they’re commonplace. Culture is essentially what we say, do, and believe. Imagine if your entire organization believed in letting actions speak volumes and communicating by saying the right thing?

Developing a culture of excellence, without question, must start at the top. Your leadership must connect with all types of people (physicians, employees, volunteers, community) through informal and formal communication channels to gain their trust and align them to fulfilling the strategic initiatives of the organization.

It is also imperative that our words and deeds create aligned strategic partnerships with diverse groups to develop clinical integration strategies that better serve the community and our clients. Your culture, therefore, is not limited to your internal organization but must also extend into the community. You need to become known for a culture of service excellence and this will serve you well to become the provider of choice in your service area.

Dennis Knox is currently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aethena Healthcare Holding Company in Los Angeles. Aethena Healthcare Holding Company “is a healthcare consolidation platform with the mission to consolidate the fragmented Urgent Care industry. We plan on having scalable growth, achieving exponential revenue growth with incremental increased costs through streamlining operations. We are seeking vertical and horizontal integration of all facets of assets within this sector. Through standardization of care along with major improvements in the business infrastructure, we will be the Starbucks of Urgent Care, projecting to go public by 2020.”

Mr. Knox has also been CEO of Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, CA; CEO of Western Medical Center, in Anaheim, CA; CEO and Managing Director of UHS/Southwest Healthcare System; CEO of Ardent Health Services/Lovelace Medical Centers/Downtown & Gibson, in Albuquerque, NM; CEO of Vanguard Health Systems/Phoenix Baptist Medical Hospital and Medical Center - Phoenix, AZ; CEO and System Vice President of Memorial Hermann Health System/Memorial Hermann Pasadena Hospital & Memorial Hermann Continuing Care Corporation in Pasadena, CA; and CEO and Executive Director of R.T. Jones Regional Hospital/Hospital Authority of Cherokee County in Canton, GA, among other prominent roles in healthcare.

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