USC Verdugo Hills Hospital CEO Keith Hobbs helms quality, staff engagement turnaround

When Keith Hobbs took over as CEO of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, the facility had just spent a year in a tough contract negotiation with union nurses and had weathered a superbug outbreak. But in the 18 months since he took the job, the hospital has made strides in quality improvement.

Keith Hobbs

Hobbs, who spent 23 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, took over as CEO in January 2016, and since then he's launched a “multipronged” approach to improve the Glendale, California, hospital’s reputation, according to an article from the Glendale News Press.

He started with more competitive wages for staff and a shift in leadership culture. Hobbs and other senior leaders would make rounds to different staffs to discuss their needs and concerns, and pick their brains on how to be more present in the hospital community. Senior leaders at Verdugo Hills are also required to serve in a community group and participate in outreach programs.

The shift in culture occurred in tandem with millions in upgrades funded by its merger with Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California, according to the article, including a new neonatal intensive care unit set to open next month and robotic surgical options.

“When I interviewed for the job, I thought this journey was going to [take three years] to be as far along as we currently are,” Hobbs said.

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Research suggests that improving hospital culture can save patients’ lives. Miscommunication, for instance, contributes to as many as 80% of medical mistakes. Healthcare leaders are nurturing respect between staff members to improve care and productivity.

CEOs who want to implement a culture change in their organizations should set a clear direction for change and challenge employees to examine processes.

As the healthcare industry continues to face a shortage of physicians and nurses, leaders are looking into incentives like better pay and enhanced retirement benefits as solutions. Offering student loan repayment and flexible scheduling are popular solutions, and some providers are simply taking more time to recognize employees’ accomplishments.