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The Exec: Ascension's Chief Experience Officer

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   November 14, 2022

Carol Campbell, who serves as senior vice president and chief experience officer for Ascension, shares the importance of consumer experience work.

Carol Campbell joined Ascension, a nonprofit Catholic health system headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, at the beginning of this year as the system's inaugural senior vice president of consumer experience. She now serves as senior vice president and chief experience officer for the health system, which serves 19 states through more than 140 hospitals, where she continues to lead the organization's consumer experience work.

Campbell recently connected with HealthLeaders to share what the first year in her role has looked like so far, what she's looking forward to leading, and how health systems can learn from other sectors when it comes to patient and consumer experience. She also shares the importance of the consumer experience in healthcare and ministry-driven organizations.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: How does consumer experience play a role in Ascension's overall strategic plan?

Carol Campbell: Our consumers are the core of "why we do what we do." The people and communities we serve are the reason for our focus on delivering a deeply personalized and frictionless experience that reinforces trust, while also providing moments of delight. When we deliver great experiences that bring people back, time and again, we build relationships that deliver value to those we serve, our associates, and our ministry.

HL: What has been your experience leading as SVP and Chief Experience Officer for Ascension?

Campbell: I wish others could feel the level of joy I've experienced in this role; to be part of a mission-based organization so deeply focused on doing what is right for those we serve, especially those who are most vulnerable. Delivering healthcare can be complex, but we try to ensure we're not passing along that complexity to our patients so we can instead bring a positive experience to all we do throughout Ascension. 

I've worked for two other well-known big brands where consumer experience is deeply embedded in the organization. But, at Ascension, delivering for our consumers is woven into our identity and who we are at our core as a healing ministry.

I have also experienced an unparalleled level of support at Ascension as we think big and lean into actions to help drive transformation across each touchpoint of the consumer experience.

HL: What short-term and long-term goals were you able to make headway in so far?

Campbell: Ascension has a solid framework to help prioritize what is most important and remove barriers to getting work done, and I've been impressed at how that framework has already enabled progress in our consumer experience work.

We've made great strides in improving access through our call centers, improvements to engage with and help patients navigate our website, and enhancing our capabilities to follow up with patients post-visit.

HL: What are you looking forward to working on in your second year?

Campbell: As with any role, the first year is about deeply listening to understand. I've been visiting our care sites regularly, talking with our frontline teams, and listening to their views on what we need to do to make it easier for them to serve our patients. I love doing this, and don’t expect it to slow down as I head into year two. We now have a refined CX organizational structure and tight priorities, so year two will be about bringing those priorities to life across the many markets we serve.

HL: How has working in consumer experience in other sectors helped you in this role? What can healthcare leaders learn from other sectors when it comes to the patient and consumer experience?

Campbell: The time I've spent working in different industries has helped me build a framework through which I can think about consumer experience as a discipline and identify how consumer needs, attitudes, and behaviors function similarly. We can also look at how other industries address common friction points. For example, healthcare is not the only industry with unpredictable wait times. The airline industry also deals with this challenge. There are exciting ways we can study what other industries do and apply learnings to our environment and dynamics in healthcare to make an impact on those we serve.

I think it's healthy to be curious and explore what others are doing, how consumers respond to those experiences, and what we can learn from them. This includes challenging my team to take note of the day-to-day experiences they have, and how they feel about them. There's a good chance that our team members' own experiences, along with their observations as consumers, could lead to helpful insights to better understand and serve all who come to us for compassionate care.

“When we deliver great experiences that bring people back, time and again, we build relationships that deliver value to those we serve, our associates, and our ministry.”

Melanie Blackman is a contributing editor for strategy, marketing, and human resources at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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