Customer-Ownership Transforms Health, Wellness and Health Care Delivery

Customer-ownership transforms health, wellness, and healthcare delivery If you have ever visited or received services at SCF you’ve probably seen or heard the term “customer-owner.” SCF uses this term to describe the 65,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people who own and receive services with SCF’s Nuka System of Care.

Did you know?

Tribally enrolled Alaska Native or American Indian people who receive services at SCF are customer-owners.

What’s in a name anyways?

Why does SCF put all this effort into re-identifying individuals receiving services as a customer-owner instead of just calling them a patient? Well, the short of it is, being a customer-owner is different than being a patient. Many customer-owners have a choice of where to receive health and wellness services. The first part of the name, customer, is an acknowledgement to this choice and a commitment to a high quality customer experience. Additionally, ‘patient’ can feel passive – things are being done to you or for you. There’s nothing wrong with ‘patient’; this is common nomenclature in health care. However, ‘customer-owner’ more appropriately reflects the role Alaska Native people play in SCF’s Nuka System of Care. SCF recognizes that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health can only be achieved when approached in collaboration. ‘Owner’ recognizes the shared responsibility between SCF and customer-owners to accomplish holistic health. Finally, customer-owners own the Nuka System of Care by providing feedback and input to help determine how health care is delivered. Ownership of one’s own health is critical to achieve wellness.

The change from patient to customer-owner was instituted in 1998 when Southcentral Foundation took ownership of the health care system. When redesigning the health care system, Southcentral Foundation sought input and direction from the Native Community.

“Alaska Native people said, among other things, that we wanted to have a say in how health care was delivered,” SCF President/CEO Dr. Katherine Gottlieb said. “We were tired of having health care done to us; we wanted to own it. So we did.”

“The beauty of SCF’s transformation was how it began – by Alaska Native people saying they wanted to take responsibility,” Gottlieb said. “We were going to change how our health care delivery system operates and moves and delivers services, but we were also going to own what we do in our own lives.”

Among the changes implemented during SCF’s health care redesign, SCF created three organizational goals that guide the care delivered:

  • Shared Responsibility — We value working together with the individual, the family and the community. We strive to honor the dignity of every individual. We see the journey to wellness being traveled in shared responsibility and partnership with those for whom we provide services.
  • Commitment to Quality — We strive to provide the best services for the Native Community. We employ fully qualified staff in all positions and we commit ourselves to recruiting and training Native staff to meet this need. We structure our organization to optimize the skills and contributions of our staff.
  • Family Wellness — We value the family as the heart of the Native Community. We work to promote wellness that goes beyond absence of illness and prevention of disease. We encourage physical, mental, social, spiritual and economic wellness in the individual, the family, the community, and the world in which we live.