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How Ochsner Health System Increased Patient Satisfaction by Smiling

Puttin On The Ritz

Where has the summer gone? It seems as though we blinked and suddenly it was the end of July with the last month of summer rapidly approaching. While this may have many of us a little bummed out, Shawn Anchor positive psychology and happiness expert (this is a real thing we swear – Shawn holds an MA from Harvard) has given us plenty to smile about!

Shawn is the author of several books including, Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage. He is also a renowned consultant working with companies such as Google, Facebook, and the NFL. However, Shawn may be best known for his speaking engagements including TedTalks, like The Happy Secret to Better Work and his SuperSoul Conversation with Oprah.

In a fascinating 2012 article that Shawn wrote for the Harvard Business Review, he speaks about how running a hospital like the Ritz Carlton hotel chain increased patient satisfaction. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast Ochsner Health System in Louisiana was looking to increase positivity across its 11,000+ employees.

To help them reach this goal Shawn advised them to implement the 10/5 rule based off of the Ritz Carlton’s famed customer service. All staff would be required to smile and make eye contact if a patient or coworker was within 10 feet of them and say hello if someone was within 5 feet. Instead of implementing the 10/5 rule and letting it fall by the wayside, Ochsner formally trained their staff and made this initiative a component of their performance reviews.

Shawn elaborates that there were in fact skeptics who were “too busy” and did not engage in the 10/5 rule. However, as other staff members began smiling and saying hello more frequently critics became converts. It is human nature to smile and say hello in response to someone else smiling at you, and soon these skeptics were using the 10/5 rule without realizing it – the behavior was contagious.

The results speak for themselves. At Ochsner, there was a 5% increase in Press Ganey’s “Likelihood to Recommend Score”, a 2% increase in unique patient visits, and significant improvements in provider satisfaction scores. It is no surprise that other former Ritz employees like Sven Gerlinger are working at world-renowned healthcare systems to improve patient experiences.

The idea of franchising habits is something we can implement in our personal home and work environments. Shawn advises to start small. For example, adding in “3 extra smiles” per day. This means smiling at 3 individuals you would not normally be smiling at or interacting with. So we at CipherHealth encourage to bring this practice into your work or personal life and see the results for yourself. We would love to hear what you chose to implement and how it works for your team and patients.


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