Sharp HealthCare

Innovative Organizations - 2011

Sharp HealthCare is a not-for-profit integrated regional healthcare delivery system based in San Diego, Calif. Sharp includes four acute-care hospitals, three specialty hospitals, two affiliated medical groups and a health plan, plus a full spectrum of other facilities and services and is the largest private employer in San Diego with 14,000 employees, 2,600 affiliated physicians and over 2,000 volunteers.

Sharp was named a recipient of the 2007 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and was the first healthcare system to be named a gold-level award recipient by the California Council for Excellence (CCE) for the California Awards for Performance Excellence (CAPE) program, the state-level affiliate of the Baldrige Award, in 2006.

In 1998, Sharp embarked on a mission to integrate its burgeoning patient and customer service efforts with Web technology. A multi-disciplinary Sharp HealthCare team developed a Web business plan that would move Sharp ahead of its local and regional competitors and position Sharp as San Diego’s online healthcare leader. The team was tasked with developing goals and strategies that would guide the organization through an evolution that would take it to the forefront of healthcare and the Web.

As a result of this initial vision, over the course of the next decade, Sharp held a leadership position in the industry blazing the trail through the initiation of various Web-based initiatives.

Sharp was one of the early health systems to forge a partnership between IT and Marketing. This remarkable relationship has been the catalyst for Sharp’s success. The Sharp Web team includes both IT and Marketing staff whom work together to ensure that the Web site is managed, maintained, continually enhanced, and the teams work together to develop strategies for the future.

In 1999, Sharp created the first healthcare system CD-ROM designed to demonstrate how consumers and patients could use the Sharp Web site. This CD-ROM was inserted into the local Sunday newspaper and distributed to thousands of homes in the area. The result was increased Web usage and increased exposure for the organization and its Web efforts at a time when many healthcare systems were just getting their first generation Web sites off the ground.

Sharp was an early pioneer in the integration of the Call Center and the Web. Sharp aligned the Web Center and Call Center to provide a consistent customer experience. With integration, patients and customers can access provider and service information and subsequently request an appointment. In addition, customers can view classes and complete real-time class and event registration with no danger of double-booking.

In 2003, Sharp launched, a Spanish-language Web site. The site provides a mirror image of most content found on with additional content that specifically targets the Southern California Hispanic population and their unique health care needs. continues to be the leading comprehensive Spanish-language health care Web site in the country.

Just two years ago, Sharp launched mySharp one of just a few custom-developed patient portals available in the country. With mySharp, patients self-schedule appointments real-time, booking the times directly into their physician’s/provider’s calendar; view lab results; message their physician’s office; view and track their vital statistics; request a prescription refill; view and pay bills and access hospital and emergency room discharge instructions. In just two years, more than 60,000 patients enrolled in mySharp, about 40 percent of eligible patients.

With the rise and growth of social media, Sharp quickly developed a strategy to tap into this powerful new medium. Sharp’s social media strategy takes communication and service to the platforms where their customers are rather than expecting customers to come to them.

Over the years, many organizations have looked to Sharp as a leader in the healthcare Internet space and have learned from their examples that:

  • Partnership with IT is required. To provide a consistent experience for patients, your site needs to integrate with other applications, which requires the support and participation of IT. Creating a shared vision is required. With a common goal, members of the team will unite and find creative solutions.
  • Voice of the customer should be the first – and last – driver of strategy. Social media, web contacts and consistent user testing provides invaluable feedback on the value and effectiveness of initiatives.
  • Innovation is never done. Successful teams constantly look for what the customer wants, what can be done better and how to move ahead.
11Sharp HealthCare
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