Power to the Patients

Reprinted from Hospital Voice magazine, Summer/Fall 2016 issue

Oregon hospital patients are speaking. Now more than ever, hospital leaders are listening.

Community hospitals across Oregon have active Patient and Family Advisory Councils, which give patients and their families an outlet to share feedback about their experiences. The feedback allows hospitals to improve care at all levels of patient care.

For instance at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, patient suggestions have already led to improvements. For example, after touring the hospital’s emergency department and providing feedback, Mercy created a training video for staff on how to improve communication with incoming patients.

In addition, members of the Council have toured the Progressive Care Unit, Family Birth Place and Centennial Medical Group’s orthopedic offices and offered suggestions and ideas for enhancing overall experiences.

They have also reviewed several marketing documents and gave recommendations, which included reducing the amount of text, clarifying some of the statements and removing industry jargon.

The Council is currently made up of five community members and is supported by Mercy Medical Center’s chief nursing officer, communications director, director of mission services, patient advocate, and service excellence coordinator.

“At Mercy, we have always been committed to listening to the diverse needs and desires of the community we serve,” said Kathleen Nickel, Director of Communications. “Our Patient and Family Advisory Council gives us another great way to learn from the people who matter most to us: our patients. We are excited to work alongside patients as a team in the name of making health care better.”

According to health care journal BMJ Quality & Safety, involving patients in their own care can result in:

  • Fewer adverse events
  • Better patient self-management
  • Fewer diagnostic tests
  • Decreased use of health care services
  • Shorter lengths of stay

Evidence also demonstrates that family members who are involved in patient care are able to give providers new information when they are present during rounds. Patients and families frequently provide care coordination and can help to assess care practices for consistency, accuracy and safety. Family members are also called upon to make decisions when patients aren’t able to act on their own behalf. Their presence can positively influence a patient’s recovery.

At Lake District Hospital in Lakeview, high-quality health care means combining cutting-edge technology with direct input from patients and their families about how to improve the everyday operations of the hospital.

“The best environment for healing is where patients, families and health care providers can collaborate and support each other,” said Charlie Tveit, CEO of Lake District Hospital.

“Patients who understand their care plan have a better chance of staying healthy. Moreover, patients are helping us by offering suggestions and insights that improve the patient care experience.”

Patients and their families at Lake District Hospital are welcome to participate in team meetings for the hospital’s Swing Bed program. A “swing bed” is the term used for a hospital room that can switch to different levels of care—the actual room does not change; what changes is the kind of care that the patient in that room receives. In addition, the hospital recently began a program of having clinical staff report to one another at the patient’s bedside during shift changes, so that patients can provide input about their care.

Lake Health District’s Home Health & Hospice program considers family members to be part of the team of patient care, working with them to provide the best care possible, whether palliative or curative. For Hospice, this continues after their loved one dies through a bereavement program.

Ways Hospitals and Health Systems Engage Patients
Delegating a leadership position: Organizations are appointing a Chief of Patient Experience Officer, or other senior executive, responsible for leading the hospital’s pursuit of patient-centered care.
Listening to patients: Hearing first-hand experiences, both negative and positive, at board and committee meetings is a powerful message that brings purpose to the work of hospital leadership.
Patient-centered training: One focus of staff training is to move past “that’s not how we’ve always done it” thinking, transitioning to engaging staff in understanding their contribution to patient experiences.
Shared decision-making with patients: Recognizing the patient as a member of his or her own care team and sharing decision-making between the hospital, physician(s), patients and their families is becoming a high-value component of patient-centered care.

To bolster their patient engagement efforts, Lake District and 29 other Oregon hospitals took part in the Patient & Family Engagement (PFE) Collaborative, a statewide effort to increase patient engagement through a partnership of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems and the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care. Participating hospitals from across the state received specialized training and shared best practices on how to include patients and their families, through in-person learning sessions, webcasts and check-ins.

“Partnering with patients and their families on ways to improve hospital operations offers many advantages,” said Diane Waldo, Associate Vice President of Quality and Clinical Services at the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. “When patients and families participate in hospital care quality improvement projects, hospital leaders no longer have to guess what patients value—they have a representative on the team to ask.

Patient and family advisors also often challenge what is possible by offering a fresh perspective and new ideas.”

Since the end of last year, PFE Collaborative participant Samaritan Health Services has taken a proactive approach to organizing and recruiting new patient and family advisory council members at its five hospitals in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties. Each hospital is has developed councils that represent their community’s diverse populations.

At Samaritan Albany General Hospital, managers and patient and family advisory councils have been working to establish goals for the group and complete several projects to improve the patient experience.

Completed projects to date include patient education materials for waiting areas, emergency and critical care department discharge procedures and department performance displays, among others.

Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport has seen a great response from their community members, who are helping with the development of their new hospital.

As the patient and family advisory council groups continue to develop and implement improvements to the patient experience, all the councils continue to work toward establishing best practices and sharing with Samaritan’s other hospitals.

The ways of engaging patients and their families are as varied as the patients themselves, and rightly so. No one method or approach will work for every patient. That patient uniqueness is the crux of achieving success—it’s found by asking, listening, and genuinely caring about what is most important to each patient and their health. It is engaging patients and their families in a partnership of care, which requires more than just a single means to achieve.

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Hospital Spotlight

Adventist Medical Center was found to have one of the lowest emergency room wait times in Oregon by independent nonprofit newsroom ProPublica.

Blue Mountain Hospital implemented the 340B prescription drug program within their hospital.

Columbia Memorial Hospital CEO Erik Thorsen was named on Becker's Hospital Review's annual list of "CEOs to Know."

Grande Ronde Hospital has been honored as one of the Top 20 Critical Access Hospitals for Overall Performance by the National Rural Health Association and has been recognized as a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital by iVantage Health Analytics for three years running.

Providence hospitals in Oregon and Providence's Center for Medically Fragile Children , a residential care facility for young people, were recognized by the Oregon Patient Safety Commission for meeting an assortment of patient safety targets.

Providence St. Vincent Medical Center has been recognized for efforts to encourage breast feeding by earning the Baby-Friendly designation from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF.

Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital's Critical Care Unit (CCU) recently received a silver level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN).

Samaritan Health Services welcomed Daniel Dowswell, DO, who will be providing care to patients of Albany OB/GYN.

Tuality Healthcare welcomed Joe Hardman, M.D., as the organization's interim chief medical officer.

Tuality Healthcare alsoreceived an 'A' grade from Leapfrog Group, a national hospital safety watchdog group.

Wallowa Memorial Hospital was designated a Blue Zones Approved Worksite by Blue Zones Project Oregon.

Wallowa Memorial Hospital was also named a Top 20 Critical Access Hospital by the National Rural Health Association and was awarded the Patient Safety Excellence Award from Healthgrades.

Does your hospital have any noteworthy news to share? Contact Kari Seymour-Howell at kseymourhowell@oahhs.org and we'll include you in the next issue of Hospital View.

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