A New Vision for patients

August 22, 2017 | by Mary Lou Mastro

It’s sad to say, but almost everybody has a health care horror story.

Some are more annoying than scary. But the fact that these stories exist means something’s not working.

When you need medical care, you’re likely feeling nervous. Preoccupied. The last thing you want to hear is that your appointment wasn’t scheduled correctly, that you need to redo a test, or – worst case scenario – you were given incorrect medication because of a communication error.

We need to transform the patient experience.

We love what Edward Hospital staff members did for one patient, a Korean War veteran who was scheduled to receive a Bronze Star when a health condition required hospitalization. He missed the ceremony, but staff members organized a ceremony at the hospital so he would receive the recognition he deserved. The video above shows a dramatization of this touching story.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is a phenomenal organization and we have wonderful people working here. When I’m out talking to people in physician offices or the hospitals, they say they love their caregivers. That’s not the problem.

The issue is the patient’s overall experience from the time they enter our system until they leave. We may have contact with a patient over a span of many months, sometimes years, and often there are bumps in the road that make the patient’s experience anything but streamlined.

Take Carol, who had cancer, for example. She had a wonderful experience with her breast surgeon, who spent an hour with her, set up her surgery and told her she needed an MRI. She tried to schedule one, but couldn’t get one for three weeks, which would have been after her surgery. With some intervention, Carol was able to schedule her MRI in time.

Another time Carol was scheduled to come in for chemo at 8 a.m. But the infusion staff didn’t know she was coming. Two hours later, she finally got the chemo. Everyone was really nice — but the system failed her.

How do we make the system of care more seamless? It’s about improving communication. We’re really nice and kind in our silos, but we don’t see how the patient goes from scheduling to a physician office.

If we looked at it closely, maybe the patient wouldn’t have to come back so many times. And how many times do we ask the patient the same question in different departments?

The most important part of this is the voice of the patient. We want to know their struggles. What frustrates them? What isn’t working?

We’re going to find out. We’ve started a Patient Partnering initiative with our senior leaders, who will each pair up with a patient to follow him or her through their entire healthcare experience. They’ll go to their appointments with them, see what scheduling and follow-up were like, how smooth the billing process was, and so on.

Our leaders will get a first-hand look at what it’s like to be a patient at Edward-Elmhurst Health so that we can work on making the process work more smoothly for all patients.

We’re working hard to raise awareness of how frustrating healthcare can be for our patients and put technology in place to help us figure out where the disconnects are. Our goal is a safe, seamless, personal patient experience.

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