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Kyruus Blog

ATLAS Pathfinders: Spotlight on Kim Nicholson of Providence Health & Services


After our success ATLAS event, we will continue to feature patient access and experience-related posts from some of the thought leaders and contributers to this year's content. 

Kim Nicholson

This week we're spotlighting Kim Nicholson, Chief Operating Officer, Clinical Program Services at Providence Health & Services, our client and a speaker at last month's ATLAS Conference.

At Providence Health & Services, Kim brings great experience from her roles at Swedish Health Services as Vice President for Patient Access and Service Line and in the Strategic Planning and Project Management division.  Specifically she oversaw the Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute, which includes strategic/capital planning and program implementation. This role spanned across the Swedish system and also included working within the larger Swedish-Providence affiliation groups within Clinical Program Services. Nicholson also worked within Patient Access and created the first in-sourced “Access Center” where patients and referring physicians can have a concierge-like experience getting into see a provider at Swedish.

During her panel, "Personalizing Patient Access: Finding the right provider beyond a web-search",  Kim and her colleague, Karen SrourDirector, Patient Engagement Center Operations & Services, addressed how Swedish Medical Center has transformed the patient access center to create a uniquely personal experience while simultaneously doubling their conversion of inbound requests to actionable encounters. This strategy is now seen as  “best practice” for Providence Health and Services and will be implemented system-wide to ensure a consistent and predictable experience for the entire health system.

To follow-up from this great discussion, we've asked Kim 10 questions about patient access, the future of healthcare, and herself.

  1. How do you define patient access at your organization?
    • I define patient access as the processes and strategies in place that dictate how patients, providers, and employers access our services within the organization. This can include everything from finding a primary care physician to opening new clinics to increase access.
  2. Why is patient access important to you?
    • It’s the simple things that matter. People are accessing Providence’s services in a time of immense need and vulnerability. If we make the process challenging for them, it introduces an additional layer of complexity that can be detrimental to their entire care experience.
  3. In your opinion, what is the most important measure of patient access that organizations should be tracking?
    • One of the most important measures, that also happens to be very challenging to qualify is, “did we delight our patients”.  I would say that the emails we receive mean more for validating our efforts than any specific quantitative metric. If we go above and beyond with our patients, everything else will follow suit.
  4. What has been the most significant accomplishment with regards to improving patient access at your organization?
    • We always highlight our success in significantly driving an increase in “calls to booked appointments”. But to me, the accomplishment I see as most significant is “patient access” is now a concept that is used broadly across the organization and has been identified as a key priority for us.  
  5. What is the biggest challenge that organizations face when optimizing for access?
    • Change management and working in a very matrixed and highly regulated environment.
  6. What are you near and long term goals for patient access?
    • Our near-term goal is to develop a consistent model for patient access for our high volume clinical programs. In the long term, we are driving towards delivering a consistent access model across the entire organization, across every channel, and across all five states.
  7. What about your job inspires you every day?
    • My team and the patients we serve. The ability to create an experience that simplifies the health care system for patients motivates me.
  8. What excites you about the future of healthcare?
    • I’m incredibly excited about intersection of digital innovation and health care. The ability to leverage this intersection will expand how we personalize the entire health care experience.
  9. What makes your health system stand out?
    • First, it would be our outstanding legacy. We have the ability to combine our strong clinical heritage with new clinical innovations.
  10. Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
    • I have two young children – I’m the soccer team manager, room parent, on two boards for non-profits…so I guess that would be my “interesting fact”: the fact that I have no free time to have an interesting fact. 



Like so many initiatives in healthcare, patient access resists a simple definition. It is a complex problem set with multiple points of leverage, risk, and opportunity. At the end of the day, however, it boils down to this: patients must be able to access the care they need, when they need it.

The second Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS) will examine every aspect of patient access and experience - from the clinical and cultural, to the operational and technical - and will give attendees a chance to sit side-by-side with their peers to learn strategies and best practices from some of the country's leading health organizations. Whether you are an executive, director, manager, or operator, you will walk away from ATLAS 2015 with a playbook that will give you the tools to take your organization to the next level of access and patient experience.  

Visit www.atlasconference.com to learn more, or be sure to subscribe to our email list to receive updates on ATLAS 2016. 


Topics: ATLAS Conference