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Sansum Clinic: Positive Progress

Sansum Clinic Today’s wavering economy means tough decisions for many healthcare organizations—but that doesn’t mean forward progress is impossible. Despite undergoing its first reduction in force, Sansum Clinic continues to provide quality service, support, and compassion to the community it serves.

“All of our management employees and physicians came together to do what was necessary to improve our organization,” said Paul Jaconette, executive vice president and CAO. “Getting everyone involved and soliciting their ideas was the best way for us to make effective decisions.”

Founded in 1921, Sansum Clinic is located in Santa Barbara, Calif. and is the largest and oldest multispecialty group practice between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Today, the nonprofit medical group, comprising 150 staff physicians and 30 specialties, provides care to thousands of patients through its specialty and multispecialty clinics.

Sansum ClinicIn 2009, the economy posed new financial challenges for Sansum Clinic. Like many businesses in the healthcare industry, the medical group had to make some difficult decisions to position itself for a successful future. The process wasn’t taken lightly, but was made easier by listening to the voices of its employees, said Jaconette.

“Our employees told us what their concerns were, and we tried to implement solutions that made them feel more comfortable with the changes,” said Jaconette. “For example, they suggested cutting benefits or adjusting work hours instead of laying off their coworkers, and we were open to those kind of suggestions.”

Sansum Clinic is one of the predominant employers in the area. Jaconette and his management team took that into serious consideration and created a strategic plan to preserve as many jobs as possible.

“Santa Barbara isn’t Los Angeles or San Francisco; you can’t just walk down the street and find another job,”
said Jaconette. “We knew we had a heavy responsibility to reach an outcome that would not only maintain stability within the organization, but also within the community we serve and employ. And I think we were able to achieve that.”

Creative conversation and coaching
Effective communication has helped Sansum Clinic do more than just get through the tough times. When a survey regarding its patient satisfaction and customer service scores came back below the regional benchmark, Jaconette again turned to his employees to find some strategic solutions.

“I met with them personally so they could see the results,” said Jaconette. “I told them, ‘I have my ideas and plans on how to improve this, but I want to hear your thoughts on it. How can we, as a team, find the answers to become better?’”

Sansum Clinic’s employees rose to the occasion, improving their working methods dramatically, said Jaconette. He is anticipating this year’s survey scores but has gained positive feedback on their efforts so far.

“Our employees have stepped up their game 100%,” said Jaconette. “We have a friendly and welcoming environment here, and I think they’re working hard to make improvements because they truly care about helping people. I see a lot of that progress coming from the employees themselves as they set great examples for one another.”

Jaconette isn’t only relying solely on employee morale to improve customer service and patient care services. He and his management team developed a new customer service coach position, designed to support employees with their efforts.

“The purpose of this new role is to provide employees with the assistance and tools they need to deliver better service,” said Jaconette. “If there is an immediate problem or concern, they can seek his guidance and get the help they need, without having to take it to their supervisor.”

Communication has played a valuable part of Sansum Clinic’s present and will continue to be an integral part of its future, said Jaconette. To enhance internal communications, the medical group is in the process of implementing EHR technology throughout its clinics.

“It’s a huge initiative for us,” said Jaconette. “We are very excited to see our organization begin to take advantage of the available state-of-the-art technology. It’s just one of the many ways we are trying to enhance our services for our patients and appeal to the high-quality physicians we hope to retain and employ within our organization.”

A breath of fresh care
Sansum Clinic has been offering its support to the community it has served for nearly 90 years. Being an integral part of the community is important and helps the medical group maintain its presence within it, said Jaconette.

In addition to partnering with clinics that provide health services to the under-insured and uninsured and sponsoring local flu-shot clinics, Sansum Clinic recently stepped up to help the community with another important program.

Last year, when the American Lung Association could no longer sponsor the community’s Camp Wheez, a free day-camp for children who suffer from asthma, the leaders of Sansum Clinic stepped in. Jaconette and his leadership obtained a local grant and found employee volunteers to keep the camp open. Sansum Clinic has since taken over the camp and breathed new life into the program, doubling the camp’s enrollment this summer.

“Supporting the program has been a huge success,” said Jaconette. “We feel that it’s our responsibility to not only provide quality healthcare services, but to actively participate and engage in programs that matter to the community we serve.”

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