South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday August 4, 2020

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February 2005 - Volume 1 - Issue 7

At Mount Sinai Medical Center, Excellent Customer Service Begins With HEARTS

With more than 10,000 cardiac procedures performed each year, Mount Sinai Medical Center (MSMC), located on Biscayne Bay in Miami Beach, is the largest provider of cardiac care in South Florida. But when Steven Fine, vice president of administration, describes the hospital’s 3,500 employees, 500 volunteers, and more than 1,000 physicians as "having HEARTS," he’s referring to something quite different than what you may be thinking.

Over the past two years, MSMC has become a living example of the power of excellent customer service. In 2002, the hospital embarked on Operation Excellence, a customer service initiative based on organizational culture change. Central to the initiative is a set of core values, embraced by all MSMC staff, that comprise the acronym HEARTS. The values are Healthcare excellence, Ethical behavior, Accountability, Respect and caring, Teamwork, and Service before self.

Fine, along with Gina Lipianin, manager of customer service, are the guiding forces behind Operation Excellence. Together, they’re working to improve the quality and efficiency of the hospital’s services, and results so far indicate improved employee and patient satisfaction scores. So successful is Operation Excellence that, in November, MSMC was recognized by Press Ganey as one of the most improved hospitals (out of 900 nationwide) in both the inpatient and outpatient categories.

Operation Excellence grew out of some exploratory work performed by the hospital’s senior management team, at the direction of President and CEO Steven D. Sonenreich. "It started with a customer service model in which action councils were formed," said Fine. "The councils covered five areas, including training, physicians, standards, reward and recognition, and communication and all were overseen by a management action council. From those beginnings, we developed the components of our current program."

Both Fine and Lipianin stressed that the success of the initiative is due in large part to the employees’ dedication to it. "This isn’t a temporary program – it was very much a cultural change that has become a way of life at Mount Sinai," said Lipianin. Fine explained that, once the core values were in place, performance standards were developed for employees, and that each employee was required to sign a statement promising to abide by the standards.

"Our approach is multi-pronged," he said. "We solicit input from the medical staff and we provide training to our managers on how to successfully engage employees. It’s crucial to the initiative that managers make their employees passionate about what they do. When the employees are passionate about care and compassion, they live it."

Changing the culture at a hospital is not always easy, and at times, it can seem nearly impossible. Not at MSMC, though. Operation Excellence was developed, presented and launched as a one-for-all, all-for-one initiative. Everyone is encouraged to submit ideas, suggestions and recommendations, and employees are recognized and rewarded for doing so. Yesterday’s employee of the month is today’s Ambassador of HEARTS, and a recognition program for excellent customer service has been designated as the Ace of HEARTS program.

Constant reminders abound. Operation Excellence is discussed with employees at every opportunity. Every PowerPoint presentation at MSMC opens with a slide depicting the HEARTS acronym, and an employee newsletter about the initiative, called Operation Excellence at Work, is published weekly.

To motivate all staff members to focus on excellence on an ongoing basis, interdepartmental, multidisciplinary teams have been created across the organization – both in clinical and non-clinical areas – to give staff regularly scheduled opportunities to identify department-specific patient priorities and explore and discuss opportunities to improve service. There’s also a great deal of information sharing, as ‘best practice’ teams in each department meet to talk about what’s working and what isn’t, then publish their findings and conclusions to the rest of the organization. To help keep the Operation Excellence initiative visible to all staff, MSMC utilized The Doug Williams Group, a regional performance improvement consulting firm, to design and deliver Operation Excellence awareness sessions to all employees. The awareness sessions reviewed the HEARTS core values and incorporated patient and employee testimonials about the success of the Operation Excellence initiative.

While many, if not most, hospitals have customer service initiatives, Fine believes that one of the reasons Operation Excellence is working so well is because it isn’t cookie-cutter. "It’s tailored specifically to our organization, evaluated on a regular basis, and adjusted as necessary." And that’s just the beginning. Fine and Lipianin believe that, for as much as has been accomplished, much more work lies ahead.

As the largest private, not-for-profit teaching hospital in South Florida, MSMC has long enjoyed an excellent reputation for such specialties as cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, physical rehabilitation, and geriatrics. The hospital’s reputation for excellence continues to grow with its emphasis on customer service.

For more information about Mount Sinai Medical Center, please call Lauri Oliva, public relations manager, at (305) 674-2600. The hospital’s web site is at
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