Scripps Health names chief experience officer

Scripps Health has named Carlsbad resident and longtime emergency medicine physician Ghazala Sharieff to the new position of corporate vice president and chief experience officer.

The role was created last year and is aimed at promoting Scripps' ongoing redesign of how it manages and delivers health care, according to a news release sent March 6.

Sharieff shared her goals for her new position in a recent interview.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

My goal is to provide each of our patients with seamless health care across our entire spectrum. This means from the first phone call to find a physician or schedule an appointment, through an inpatient stay, to our home health and rehab services and with our billing department.

What will be your duties in your new position? When do you start?

My role is to lead efforts to improve and maintain an exceptional patient experience at Scripps. This will include working with our clinics in opening up same-day appointments, extending our hours to better meet the needs of our patients, developing a single phone number for our billing services so patients do not need to call multiple numbers and more. It also includes specialized training for anyone who comes in touch with our patients and their families. I started in October with just the hospitals but am now delving deeper into our patients’ needs at all levels.

What challenges might you take on in your new role, which is also a newly created position?

The challenges are getting things done as quickly as I would like them. As an emergency physician, I am used to rapid change. That being said, I have been humbled by how engaged our staff has been about embracing change and really putting our patients in the front and center of our care plans. The enthusiasm is contagious.

Why is patient satisfaction important to you?

I had an enlightening moment several years ago. I decided that I was going to do one thing different for my patients. I started asking them what their greatest concern was. One of my first patients was a 7-year-old boy with rotating leg pain and unexplained fever for about a week and a half. He had been seen at three different ERs across town (not Scripps sites) with three negative X-rays and each time was advised to follow up with his pediatrician. I saw him on his fourth visit and I asked the grandmother who was caring for him what her greatest concern was. She said that she was worried he had cancer. Then the lightbulb went off: rotating leg pain with negative X-rays, unexplained fever — it could be. So I obtained a blood test and, sure enough, he had leukemia. I realized then that had I not asked that question, I might very easily have missed the diagnosis, as had the other three physicians. That changed my practice entirely and if I can help others realize the importance of truly understanding what is at the root of our patients’ concerns, then I will have made an important impact.

How does it feel to be placed in this new role?

I am truly honored. Scripps is a wonderful organization and to be spearheading some innovative projects is already a highlight for me.

What can you tell us about your history with Scripps? What have been some of your greatest achievements with Scripps so far?

I met Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder when I was starting my MBA program. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in health care administration so I met several of our local CEOs. At that first visit, Chris was amazing and offered to be my mentor for my project. I was so impressed that after my MBA, I asked if I could do a free physician executive administrative fellowship to learn more about health care. I spent two days a week at Scripps attending meetings and helping with projects. At the end of my time, I was offered a part-time position, which has grown into my current position. So far, my individual MD coaching program has raised our physician scores by over 55 percentile and we were able to publish this data. By working with the staff at our other hospitals and clinics we are seeing improvement in our scores as well. But my greatest achievement has been gaining the trust of our front-line staff.

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