A couple of years ago, I spoke at the Military Health Conference on a panel about improving the patient experience. As the daughter of a military surgeon myself, I was honored to speak in front of a crowd that included all of the military surgeons general, and an assembled crowd of men and women who have dedicated their careers to tending to the healing and support of the soldiers and families who serve our country.
At the end of the panel, the moderator asked us each to enumerate the ten things that military health leaders could do come Monday to humanize the healthcare experience at their facilities. So I rattled off my list and hoped that I’d made an impression.
The following Tuesday I received a call from then Captain (now Admiral) Dan Zinder, a surgeon with board certification in Otolaryngology who was serving as the Commanding Officer at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. He told me, “I’ve done the ten things you mentioned, now what should I do?”
I was blown away by his passion, his commitment, and by his bias to action. Trust the military to see a good idea and not let it languish because it’s hard or they have “too many other priorities.” Zinder recognized immediately that humanizing the healthcare experience needs to be a top priority – that it is the key to fixing healthcare.
Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune went on to become a founding member of the Experience Innovation Network, a group of health systems around the country that have made humanizing the healthcare experience a top strategic priority, and that believe in the power of the network to uncover big ideas, accelerate execution, and to put the science behind the human experience, showing how it affects quality, cost, and the wellbeing of patients and families, as well as the healthcare professionals that serve them.
Shortly after joining the Experience Innovation Network, Zinder was stationed in Afghanistan, and command of the hospital transferred to Captain David Lane, a family medicine physician who is similarly committed to humanizing the healthcare experience. This change in leadership is common at military hospitals, where the Commanding Officer (CEO equivalent) and the Executive Officer (CXO equivalent) change every two years, on a staggered schedule. That means that there is a significant change in senior management every year at these facilities.
And yet the bias to action continues. Captain Lane has proven to be as dedicated to driving meaningful change as his predecessor, remaining engaged and moving projects forward despite the sequester, a government shutdown, and numerous other roadblocks. In fact, all of our military partners continue to amaze us – dialing into webinars from Afghanistan and Guam – and spreading ideas and best practices across the globe.
So today, on Veterans Day, we honor the commitment of the men and women who serve in our military health systems. Your dedication and commitment inspire us to aim higher and work harder. We are forever grateful for your service, your efforts, and your unwavering humanity.