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No Meetings Allowed

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Every Spectrum Health manager—from President Matt Van Vranken to frontline supervisors—has two hours blocked out of their calendars for next Monday morning. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., each member of the Michigan health system’s leadership team will be doing the same thing: not meeting.

A no-meeting zone—three mornings a week for executive leaders and five mornings a week for managers—is a key tactic in Spectrum’s plan to hit the highest rungs of patient satisfaction in the country.

If it sounds off-point, consider this: In the two years since initiating a systemwide culture change, patient satisfaction at one of Spectrum’s hospitals rose from the 38th to the 92nd percentile compared to all other hospitals nationally. The admissions department at another Spectrum facility moved its scores from the 56th to 96th percentile. And the average wait time at its busiest emergency department fell from several hours to just 19 minutes—sending patient satisfaction scores through the roof.

The no-meeting zone is designed to push managers out of conference rooms and into hospital corridors. That’s where they can mentor staff, spot emerging problems, speak with patients and engage in spur-of-the-moment conversations that might otherwise never happen.

“If we are serious about patients and families and the care they get, you have to plan time for that to be the focus,” says Kris White, the Spectrum vice president of patient affairs in charge of making patients satisfied with their healthcare experience. White says a no-meeting zone—one of several strategies designed to improve patient experiences—communicates Spectrum’s value in a way banners and slogans cannot.

“We said, ‘What are the attributes and behaviors of leaders that are committed to excellence, and what can we do to demonstrate that in a big way to the organization at large?’” she says. “One of those was the no-meeting zone.”

—Lola Butcher