How We Improve the Patient Experience

Chris Ruder on patient care

Chris Ruder, RN, vice president, Patient Care Services, talks about how putting patients at the center of our care equation has been key to our success.

A hospital's reputation is only as good as a patient's experience. That's why our hospital nurtures a service-minded culture of courtesy, kindness and exceptional care.

Room service

Hotel-style room service for hospital patients? Exactly. We know meal service is an important part of the hospital experience, and room service is the latest trend in hospital food service. We want to serve very good food to our patients and for meal service to rival that of a hotel.

Our patients are able to order from a room service menu customized to their therapeutic diet prescribed by their physician. They can order what they want, when they want, and the meal is delivered to them within 45 minutes. Menu choices include made-to-order omelets and sandwiches, traditional hearty beef stew and roast turkey with gravy, and desserts like chocolate chip cookies and strawberry shortcake. Each item is healthfully prepared and attractively served.

Measuring Up

To ensure we're providing the best service possible to our patients, our Dietetics and Nutrition managers, supervisors and staff conduct meal rounds on every unit. They check on delivery times, staff interaction and whether patients are satisfied with the quality and presentation of their meals. They resolve any issues and communicate to our patients that we care and want them to have the best possible experience during their stay.

Valet parking

Finding a parking spot can be a challenge. But with our valet parking service, patients and family members simply drive to the hospital’s front lobby entrance. Courteous attendants take care of parking the car, then retrieve it upon request. For patients and visitors with handicaps or those who don't feel well, valet parking makes this task one less thing to worry about.

Spiritual support

For patients and their loved ones, being in the hospital is a life-changing event. It can trigger a wide range of feelings and emotions.

Staff members are encouraged to surround each patient with compassion and personal advocacy. All are empowered to respectfully listen and empathize with the challenges our patients and their family members face.

Our nurses, social workers and chaplains have exceptional skills in this area. They often work as a team to provide patients and families with information and support without being asked for it. They're prepared to help people deal with even the toughest, most complex situations.

Customer service training

To help employees understand the challenges our patients and their loved ones face, staff members attend a day of customer service training when they join the hospital.

More than 10,000 employees have participated in these free-flowing classes since they began in 1999. Sessions are designed to nurture our institution-wide culture of courtesy, kindness and exceptional care.

Staff members learn to empathize with our patients and their family members. They brush up on skills such as listening, affirming feelings and helping patients deal with their emotions. We're also empowered to become personal advocates and solve problems whenever possible on behalf of patients and loved ones.

Nurse liaisons

Families call our surgical nurse liaisons their lifelines. When a loved one is having surgery, our surgical and cardiovascular nurse liaisons act as go-betweens, updating family members on each patient's progress.

Nurse liaisons are experienced surgical nurses who travel between the hospital's operating and procedure rooms and their respective waiting areas. Because of the complexity and length of many surgeries, physicians and staff cannot leave the operating rooms to regularly update concerned family members and friends.

Instead, nurse liaisons keep tabs on each patient and provide periodic reports and explanations to put family members at ease. Liaisons perform their critical role 16 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

Transforming Care at the Bedside

Transforming Care at the Bedside, or TCAB, is a framework for improving patient care on medical and surgical units. Initiated by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in 2003, it encompasses four main elements:

  • Safety and reliability
  • Care team vitality
  • Patient-centeredness
  • Increased value

Brainstorming helps staff members develop new ideas. Any staff member can initiate and lead a TCAB program. Using a process called "small tests of change," progress is assessed daily. After the assessment period, an idea is adopted, abandoned or adapted as needed. Projects that fail are reassessed later and sometimes tried again.

Departments continually test new TCAB ideas. The most successful programs they have adopted include:

Safety huddle

All staff members meet during the unit's shift change. The outgoing team informs the incoming team of any outstanding patient or safety issues. The safety huddle has also become a popular team-building activity where staff can briefly visit with each other.

Quiet time

Lights are dimmed and noise is minimized during certain hours of the day and night so patients can rest more comfortably.

Supplies at the bedside

Nurses suspected that they spent too much time going back and forth to supply cabinets. They discovered that in one year nurses walk the distance from Kansas City to Los Angeles and back, or approximately 2,714 miles! Many departments now stock frequently used supplies at the bedside, saving steps and freeing more time to spend caring for patients.

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