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Saline Memorial staff seeks to improve hospital experienceOriginally Published August 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 14, 2013 at 12:10 p.m.
Laura Berryhill of the surgery department at Saline Memorial Hospital, from the left, assists surgeon Mike McGhee and surgical registered nurse Amy Sullins during a procedure in an operating room at the hospital. Saline Memorial has ranked high in surgery safety among Arkansas hospitals and is working to improve the patient experience for all who are treated at the hospital.
Going to the hospital can be scary, especially if you’re the patient.
First, if you are there to begin with, something is wrong, or you think there might be. Patients’ worries are increased when they are removed from comfortable surroundings and placed where they wonder what is going on.
Saline Memorial Hospital is working to help patients overcome the anxiety of a hospital stay so they can relax and concentrate on getting better.
“We have been making a major thrust on patient satisfaction,” said Bob Trautman, CEO of Saline Memorial. “We have some real champions working for the patients on your hallways.”
Chief among those “champions” is David Gibson, manager of cardiopulmonology for the hospital, and coordinator of the medical center’s customer-service efforts.
Gibson said that with more health care assessments being collected, and with the public being able to shop around for care, the focus in health care has changed over the years.
“In the 1980s, it seemed a hospital focused on who the payer source would be,” Gibson said. “Now it is all about the patient experience and our clinical excellence. In those areas, I think our hospital compares well with anyone in the state.”
A recent report by ConsumerReports.org rated hospitals across the country on a variety of health care issues. The company ranked Saline Memorial highest in the state for safety.
“We received a composite safety score of 57, the highest in the state, among the hospitals with quality measures and patient surveys,” Trautman said. “They are measurements that look at patient outcomes.”
Information published by the consumer research organization said the ratings “help compare hospitals based on patient experience, patient outcome and certain hospital practices.”
The survey was made “using the most current data available to us at the time of our analysis,” according to ConsumerReports.org. “It includes information from government and independent sources on 1,159 hospitals in 44 states. We also interviewed patients, physicians, hospital administrators and safety experts; reviewed medical literature; and looked at hospital inspections and investigations.”
Saline Memorial leads a list of 22 Arkansas hospitals. The survey pointed out that many of the hospitals in the state do not provide public information on some of the criteria in the report.
“Hospitals that volunteer safety information, regardless of their score, deserve credit, since the first step in safety is accountability,” said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, in a report about the company’s health care survey.
The effort to make patients feel better about being hospitalized focuses on showing patients that the hospital staff cares, Trautman said.
“This is a case of culture trumping strategy,” the CEO said. “It starts at hiring. Our goal is to find the best fit for our philosophy of caring for the patient. We are not always looking for the best technician; we are looking for the right attitude. We can train professional people in the technology.”
After the selection of hospital personnel, from surgical specialists to nonmedical staff, the caring culture is passed along.
“When a new person comes in, they assume a role that is patient-centered,” Gibson said. “Like me, I want them to love customer service.”
Trautman said the concern that patients have a positive experience in the hospital keeps everyone looking for ways to do things better.
“We are always looking to find unmet needs,” he said. “Anytime anyone finds something a patient needs, work should begin to meet those expectations.”
The latest attempt to increase patient awareness is a new program called the No Pass Zone.
“I am instituting it this week,” Trautman said. “If someone working at this hospital walks down a hallway and sees a patient call light is on, no one will ignore it. Everyone on staff, including the CEO of the hospital, will go into the room to see what kind of help is needed.
“There might be an emergency, or maybe they just need a box of tissues that is out of reach. Everyone needs to check and see if they can do anything for the patient.”
Trautman also said the nursing staff will check on their patients almost every hour.
“They can come into the room and ask if they need anything,” he said. “This is about comfort. Maybe they need another chair for someone staying with them, or maybe the patient is cold and needs another blanket. If it’s late, they will check to see if the patient is sleeping comfortably.”
For several years now, it has been hospital policy at Saline Memorial that all members of management are on a rotation to visit patient rooms.
“We are permitted to go see patients that were admitted the day before, and we ask how they are doing,” said Rebecca Jones, marketing director for Saline Memorial. “Once I noticed a patient had been given flowers, and they needed a vase. I found one for her.”
Having management make the rounds of the patients keeps them thinking about the patients and the care they receive, Jones said.
Gibson said talking to the patients is one of the most important things the hospital staff can do.
“The best way to hear from the customer is to be face to face with them,” Gibson said. “There are so many pieces to patient care. Communication is what ties everything together.”
In the emergency room of the hospital, staff members have been instructed to keep patients informed about what is happening and what is going to happen.
“We call it “What’s Next?” Gibson said. “We have tried to put ourselves in the patients’ place. They want to know what is going on. All through the visit, they will be told what is happening next and what it means.”
As an example, he said, a staff member might draw blood. That caregiver will tell the patient that the blood is for a test and will be going to the lab, and that the doctor will be back with the results in 15 to 20 minutes. The doctor will then tell the patient the results and what’s next.
“Patients can’t just be waiting there, wondering how long until something is done,” Gibson said. “They need to know.”
Trautman said the hospital administration only considers a rating of “Excellent” as a passing grade from a patient. He said that in the hospital’s most recent analysis of the ratings, 98 percent of the reports rated in that category.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.