An interview with Shatha Abuzinada

As the Chief Organizational Development Officer in King Saud Medical City (KSMSC), a tertiary hospital in the Kingdom, she is responsible in designing and in delivering organizational development as well as in managing change to foster a high performance culture across KSMC. She also oversees wide range of performance metrics and analyzes and recommends expansion and opportunities for KSMC. Strategic Management Administration, Academic & Training Affairs, Total Quality Management & Patient Safety, Data Warehouse & Statistics, and Research Centre in KSMC are under her supervisions.


How do you address the challenge of alignment organizational culture, healthcare outcomes, patient experience, quality and safety to drive improvement? 

Challenges include:

  • Healthcare leaders are required to recognize the interdependence between patient experience, quality and safety, and organizational culture for healthcare organization improvement. Not many leaders actually recognize this interdependence. Convincing leaders that there is a problem is a challenge.
  • The lack of efficient and effective data collection and monitoring systems
  • The new trend of driving towards patient centrality. This is adding community pressure for better patient safety, patient-reported outcomes, patient perceptions of care, and cost effectiveness. Leaders must acknowledge that quality improvement is more than just good clinical outcomes.
  • The need of capable, skilled, experienced, and willing manpower to plan and execute the alignment. “An analysis of Press Ganey patient experience scores showed that organizations that improve in multiple domains are more likely to see improvements in their Overall Rating than organizations that improve in only one domain”.
  • Alignment of the mentioned components requires a culture change, which is a main challenge by itself. Cultures are difficult to move in positive directions and requires huge dedication.
  • Are staff engaged? If not, then solve this challenge first.

There has been a heightened focus on patient experience for some time among healthcare leaders and providers. Are you seeing an impact? if not, why not? If yes, how has it changed the face of healthcare delivery and management? 

In KSMC, quite few things have been done to enhance patient experience, starting from establishing “Patient Experience Administration” that frequently monitors and assesses the patient experience at KSMC. And to answer the question, YES, this focus had an impact as shown in:

  • Established a multi-disciplinary committee to oversee and assist with implementation and maintenance of person-centered practices.
  • Patients became more personally involved in their healthcare decisions, ensuring firsthand that they receive the most value for their investment.
  • Improved caring attitudes and compassionate communication by staff.
  • Better compliance with documentation and sharing of care plans and treatment goals
  • Caring attitudes and compassionate communication are integrated into KSMC’s Reward and Recognition Systems.
  • Offer online scheduling.
  • An emphasis was put on implementing “open-disclosure” policy.

At KSMC, how do you integrate a “just” and high reliable culture from top-down to bottom- up?

We adopted the principles of “Just Culture” at KSMC as a part of our Patient Safety Culture, trying to move from the “No-Blame” end of the spectrum to a more balanced and accountable system that understands human behavior and responds accordingly. The idea is that we be sympathetic with staff who do slips and honest mistakes, we council and train staff who take shortcuts at work that may put patients under risk, and punish reckless behaviors.

On the other hand, KSMC tried to promote High Reliability concepts through many initiatives, such as creating an Enterprise Risk Management Program, enhancing a learning culture, and fostering continuous improvement approach. KSMC tried to do the integration through improving teamwork communication initiatives (like Huddles), promoting accountability culture, and open communication between staff and higher management.

What advice would you give other organizations across the globe working to improve the patient experience?

Try to meet patients where they are → on their Mobile Phones!! Create a helpful online presence, and offer online scheduling… patients love that.

As a speaker at PXEC, what are you most looking forward to? 

I look forward to exchanging and brainstorming ideas on how we can improve patient safety culture in our health care institutions.