“We are all leaders.”

This shared ethos is being used to usher in a new era of patient-centred care in New Brunswick. Horizon Health Network and its leaders are relying on the community to determine where the healthcare organization should go to make the community and its future healthier.

Patient-centred care. They may sound like industry buzzwords, but at Horizon Health Network, it is how the leadership, physicians, staff, and volunteers approach work every single day. Focused on patient and family-centred care, Horizon operates 12 hospitals and more than 100 medical facilities, clinics, and offices while employing more than 13,000 staff and physicians. Horizon provides services ranging from acute care to community-based health programs.

With a collaborative, team approach to offering services—both in English and French—Horizon leads the way in delivering sustainable, safe, and quality health-care services to residents of New Brunswick, Canada as well as nearby northern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Integral to their success, says chief operating officer and vice president of corporate Andrea Seymour, is the shift in culture that was signaled by a new strategic plan, approved by the board in January 2015.

“Horizon’s vision is a healthier future for New Brunswick and the new strategic plan exemplifies that: Exceptional care. Every person. Every day,” says Seymour “We’re making good steps in terms of starting to model that in our organization. Although the services we offer and the way they are delivered may vary across the province, the overall experience that patients and staff have in our organization will be consistent.”

It was important to the board and to Horizon’s leadership that all voices were heard in the development of the new strategic plan. Hundreds of New Brunswickers provided their feedback on how they want their health-care system to serve their needs. The comments were gathered during a formal consultation process that included patients and their families, community leaders, allied-health organizations, as well as Horizon’s own staff and physicians.

“We’ve worked together to develop a culture in Horizon that is committed to patient and family-centred care,” Seymour says. “Each of us must seek out ways to exceed the expectations for every person who looks to us for service, and to do this for each and every interaction. Nothing short of aspiring to give exceptional care will allow us to do our very best.”

Horizon is not resting on its laurels either, and recognizes that its mission to help people be healthy is not one that rests solely in its hands. It continues to reach out to its community and government partners to create a culture that values innovative partnerships and collaborations to benefit the health of those living in the province.

And it was the feedback from the people of New Brunswick that helped to establish the values that Horizon uses to guide how they work together. “We show empathy, compassion, and respect,” Seymour says. “We strive for excellence. We are all leaders of our vision, but we work as a team. And we act with integrity and are held accountable.”

Horizon’s new vision statement: “Exceptional care. Every person. Every day,” is a bold statement that may seem daunting at times given fiscal and staffing limitations, but as Seymour explains, “Good health lies at the heart of our daily quality of life. It’s what all people want for themselves and their loved ones, and what we should want for each other.”

Seymour says it’s these values that define the relationship between staff and leadership as well as staff and patients. “If we can epitomize those in our relationships and interactions with our patients, in the very culture of our organization, we will be able to deliver excellent-quality care and help people be healthy. It is cyclical—they build on each other.”

When many people think of strong leadership, they think of the way executives direct the staff. Although that’s certainly part of Horizon’s plan, Seymour stresses the importance of including the staff in the discussion in a way that allows them to get their perspective as well.

“Our values say we are all leaders. And every staff member has the opportunity to lead by example. We encourage their ideas and our best initiatives come from those on the front line,” Seymour says. “Horizon can’t deliver on our mission and our vision without having the commitment and the passion of our staff. It is vital for us to be really deliberate in establishing and maintaining relationships with our staff in order to move the organization ahead.”

Horizon’s strategic plan also speaks to how to ensure that staff are supported and enabled to carry out its mission and vision. In order for Horizon to achieve the aggressive timelines and actions set out in its strategic plan, they have found it essential to focus on how it can support and foster an environment in which innovation can thrive.

“Our success is dependent on the energy and engagement of our people and the adoption of technology to change,” Seymour says. According to the COO this means: improving employee and physician engagement by empowering staff to shape the organization’s success and enabling ongoing professional development; adapting to technological changes—especially those that promote patient engagement; and promoting a corporate culture that actively seeks input from its stakeholders.

“It will be vital over the next five years to offer a deliberate, planned, and sustained effort to maintain mutual understanding between Horizon and our communities,” Seymour says. “But I know we have the right people with the right attitude in place and we are up to the task.”