Enlisting everyone in redefining a caregiving culture

Copper Ridge Surgery Center, Traverse City MI

Copper Ridge Surgery Center, Traverse City MI

The CRSC is the largest Ambulatory Surgery Center in Michigan and one of the largest in the United States. They serve between 85 and 115 individuals a day with 11 different service lines: everything from cataracts to hand surgery to whole joint replacement.

Safety, compliance, efficiency and throughput assure profitability; the staff’s patient experience ratings ensure referrals, return visits and positive word of mouth.

“The cost of entry into the healthcare system is SO HIGH, if you don’t pay attention to the patient experience, you’re going to lose - on a lot of different levels.”

— LoAnn VandeLeest, CEO

According to ongoing patient satisfaction surveys, CRSC has between a 96 – 99% approval rating, but a closer look at the patient commentary reveals real opportunities for improvement. Connect_CX was engaged to undertake a patient experience audit that includes pre-visit, welcome, pre- and post-operative areas.

Time is a precious commodity for the staff at CRSC. We defined a process to elicit targeted, succinct input at each meeting, and delivered on expectations. In many cases, group discussions led to new realizations of each team member’s responsibility and ways of communicating.

This was by design: the biggest part of the challenge was to build awareness among the staff of the different ways CRSC looks and sounds to patients, and design a system of training and tools to help them deliver improved patient experiences.

THE GOAL: provide patients and their families with as much certainty as possible throughout their experience.

In doing so, we improve patient satisfaction scores to exceed upcoming federal guidelines for ASCs, and guarantee all available Medicare reimbursements. 

In the end, we’re designing a system to help CRSC's staff deliver experiences proactively and consistently, thereby giving CRSC’s patients multiple reasons to tell better stories.



Working closely with a team of Patient Experience leadership, we built a process to enlist leaders from throughout the organization for input and feedback. While they provided examples of their process and communications, we discovered gaps that could be addressed. 


In a workshop session, we built patient personas to determine different needs and anticipate emotions throughout their journey: their primary care physician, referred surgeon, contacts and information from CRSC and others. 

We described their journey in six discrete phases: as they search for information, prepare for their day of surgery, enter the CRSC, undergo their procedure, leave the Center and share their experiences, both via surveys and with their friends and neighbors.

Patient experience matrix

We then described individual journeys and built a master journey map that outlines each clerical or clinical touchpoint. When a person interacts with the CRSC, our process assures consistency with:

  • MESSAGE: the information being shared;

  • MEMBER: the person responsible for sharing it;

  • MEDIUM: how it's delivered; and

  • MOMENT: at which point in the process.


NOTE: in 2018 the Copper Ridge Surgery Center underwent a name change from Northwest Michigan Surgery Center (NMSC). These graphics do not reflect that change.


We distilled a complex matrix into a system map that depicts interactions across the entire experience from the patient’s view: what’s the Message being shared, by which Member of the staff, in what Medium, and at what Moment in the process. Media include verbal, printed, digital interactions and how the facility itself supports the experience.

Looking at the image above, for instance, you see that all of the green dots are individual verbal interactions by different CRSC staff at different points in the process. Lots of opportunity for solutions designed to improve internal communications.


Having visualized this, we needed to find a way to lock it into the culture, to serve as a visual shorthand for patient experience. Our anchoring metaphor for CRSC is that of a Formula One pit crew: everyone has a specific job, carried out in a short amount of time, and if one step gets missed, the race is over. 

In keeping with this, we changed the System Map to an Infinity Loop, which allows us to speak to the same information in a different way. And we've distilled it into a single symbol that serves as a “cultural anchor,” a single point of reference for all ongoing discussions around patient experience at CRSC.

Graphic Loop.png


A number of new efforts have begun to allow staff to organically improve patient experience: new procedures for training and orienting new hires, opportunities for existing staff to observe and learn from other departments, and internal process improvement groups. By creating the structure for this “cross-pollination,” we build awareness and appreciation for each team member’s contribution, and encourage sharing of issues and ideas.

We’ve also built a rotating group of internal “Champions” that serve as the cultural thermometer for patient experience initiatives, projects and decisions, assuring that our efforts land solidly with staff and continue the environment for organic growth. 

Using the Infinity Loop, everyone now understands their role in the context of the broader patient experience giving us a platform to fulfill the original charge: giving patients and their families as much certainty as possible at each point in the process. Engaged, empowered staff design ways to enable confident, stress-free patients who will, in turn, tell better stories. And isn’t that the kind of patient you want telling stories about their experiences with you?


“The team that Connect_CX has worked with has had nothing but positive things to report about their knowledge, skills and interpersonal abilities. They come ultra-prepared to every interaction and we appreciate their respect for our time and talents.”

“It's been critical for them to provide their insights and discipline to keep the project moving. They've helped us to position ourselves to do the work, keep the finish line in sight and engage everyone, at every level, to help build a new caregiving culture here at CRSC.”

— LoAnn VandeLeest, CEO