How Sutter Health is Bringing Actual Hospitality to Its Hospitals

It turns out the words hospice, hospital and hospitality are all derived from the same Latin root. L. Jasmine Kim, Chief Marketing Officer for Sutter Health, mentions this for reasons that go beyond wordplay. Her Northern California-based not-for-profit health system and others like it are coming around to the idea of “customer experience” as something that must be at the heart of patient/health care interactions.

It turns out the words hospice, hospital and hospitality are all derived from the same Latin root. L. Jasmine Kim, Chief Marketing Officer for Sutter Health, mentions this for reasons that go beyond wordplay. Her Northern California-based not-for-profit health system and others like it are coming around to the idea of “customer experience” as something that must be at the heart of patient/health care interactions.

Jasmine Kim speaking at Brand Innovators’ CES Summit

“The entire industry has been focused on health care,” Kim says, “but we are shifting our focus to health and actually keeping people out of the healthcare system.”

Kim says Sutter is moving steadily towards what she calls the “consumerization” of healthcare. “What that means is, instead of you being a widget in the way a health care system or a hospital works, we tailor services and products to the end user, whether you are a 65-year-old person who needs diabetic care or a young woman trying to figure out BRCA genes or a weekend athlete who’s looking to have your ACL replaced because you ski too much.”

“I’m working with doctors,” Kim laughs, “who are beginning to accept the fact that the top four reasons people choose a primary care doctor have nothing to do with their credentials. Instead it’s ‘Can I get an appointment with you today, are you near a coffeehouse, can I drop my son off on the way to see you and can I get in and out in a day?’”

Unsurprisingly, skyrocketing consumer health spending is top of mind for Kim. “Right now, one out of every five dollars spent in the US is going to health care. That number will soon rise to one out of four.”

Kim says Sutter has been focused on tech as a means to deliver better customer experiences and reduce costs. Even something as simple as a text message can change the game. “Almost 90% of what people want to talk to a doctor about are worrisome things like ‘I have a cold that’s on day 10–is this pneumonia or am I overthinking it?’ If they are able to text a nurse practitioner instead of waiting to be seen by a doctor, the frustration and friction goes down.”

Along with tech, changing consumer expectations have a big role to play in shaping the future of healthcare delivery. Big providers are noticing that some younger consumers are bypassing traditional health systems, says Kim, because they are so fraught with frictions. This is forcing providers to evolve.


Jasmine Kim: “The wealth of a nation or city or community is based on the health and wellness of its citizens.”

“There’s a new generation coming up and their expectations are increasingly that we deliver an experience like they are used to,” she says, “which is in the swipe of a finger.” Kim says the pace of change is not as fast as she would like–regulatory, compliance and privacy issues obviously play a role–but Sutter and others are on the right path.

Then she offers hope for the future of healthcare. “The wealth of a nation or city or community is based on the health and wellness of its citizens. At Sutter, we are so focused on innovation and design. We are doing patient experience studies like I used to do working in hospitality and commerce. It’s revolutionary to think that we are now doing that in health.”

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