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Hospital hires patient experience consultant

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center has hired a consultant to improve the hospital experience for both patients and employees.

Jake Poore, co-founder and leader of the Florida-based Integrated Loyalty Systems, visited Greenfield last week with a small team to interview patients and employees and map the “patient experience.” He will compile his team’s findings, present them to hospital staff and then organize a two-day retreat for the hospital and some select patients to brainstorm ways to improve their overall experience.

A hospital’s patient experience is the “cumulative evaluation of the journey they have with you,” according to Poore, which includes things like interactions with employees, observations about the physical appearance of the facilities and emotions tied to how the hospital goes about delivering its care. Employee satisfaction is a key factor in boosting patient experience, he said.

Baystate Health is paying Poore’s company an undisclosed fee, which is not coming out of the Greenfield hospital’s patient care budget, said hospital spokeswoman Amy Swisher. Hospitals and health care providers around the country are ramping up their efforts to improve patient experience, in part because there is now federal reimbursement money at stake.

The federal government reimburses hospitals for Medicare, the health program for the elderly, but it now withholds 1 percent and redistributes that money based on the results of a national, standardized survey about patient experience. The survey asks questions like “How often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand?” and “How often was the area around your room quiet at night?”

Poore, whose mother was a nurse for 40 years, worked for the Walt Disney Co. for nearly two decades before starting Integrated Loyalty Systems in 2001 with physician Brian Wong.

For the past 12 years, his company has focused on humanizing health care and improving the patient experience. This is the fifth project his company has done for Baystate Health.

“I think one of the challenges in health care is not that we have challenges meeting and exceeding expectations ... but we’re not doing a good job of setting expectations,” said Poore. “We know full well what an average length of stay for a hip replacement is going to be, for instance, but why don’t we tell you that?”

He said people have the same needs in a hospital that they have at Starbucks or going on vacation: they want to be treated with dignity and respect. And if a housekeeper in a hotel wouldn’t enter the room unannounced and start cleaning, he said, why should that be allowed to happen at a hospital?

Gina Campbell, the hospital’s chief operating officer and regional director of quality, said that a hospital team has been working on improving the patient experience for two-plus years.

But the members got stuck and didn’t know how to spread their ideas to the hospital and surrounding Baystate medical offices. That’s where Poore comes in, said Campbell, and he’ll be building on the work the team did to make improvements to patient experience.

Poore believes there are small things that hospitals can do to improve this experience, like putting pictures on the wall so that people know they’re still in Greenfield when they walk through the hospital doors. One “Baystate pet peeve” of his is that the health system gives patients carry-out bags that are transparent instead of opaque, thus allowing everyone to see their personal belongings.

His team conducted 32 formal interviews with patients to discuss their thoughts on the hospital, what they like or dislike about it and what can be improved. Poore also has asked hundreds of other patients, volunteers, employees and community members for their thoughts on the hospital.

And his workers took photographs of the paths patients take to receive their medical care. Can a person leave the highway and accurately follow road signs to the hospital? Is it obvious where to park and are there spaces available? Is it clear where the front entrance is and what is the first thing patients see when they walk inside?

There’s also a focus this week on employees, who need to be treated just as well as patients, said Poore.

His team interviewed many employees — including administrators, physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians, food service workers, receptionists and more — to ask what they liked and disliked about working for the Greenfield hospital.

Poore will edit together video interviews, create a report for the hospital and present it in Greenfield later this summer.

Then, a large group of about 40 to 60 people representing all different divisions of the Greenfield hospital, will meet for a two-day retreat in September to form a blueprint of the hospital’s actions going forward. Campbell said that the hospital is willing to make major changes if it will improve the overall experience inside the hospital.

The consulting comes at a time when tensions are high between the hospital and its nurses, who are engaged in a nearly two-year contract dispute. The hospital laid off 10 floor nurses earlier this month because of lower inpatient numbers. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has helped organize community members together to demand increased local medical services and will hold a rally in front of the hospital on Thursday night.

The MNA, which represents just over 200 of the hospital’s nurses, doesn’t believe Poore’s company will make a difference in Greenfield. Creating scripts and procedures for employees are “all a show” to bring marketing and entertainment practices into health care, argued spokesman David Schildmeier.

“We don’t need Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck,” he said. “We need pediatricians, urologists and surgeons.”

Linda Judd and Donna Stern, leaders of the local nurses union, met with Poore for about an hour last week, after receiving a personal request from hospital President Chuck Gijanto.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

The key to improving patient experience and saving money is this: Don't waste your money with these hired guns, but spend your money on more nursing. Better nurse-patient ratios lead to improved patient satisfaction, decreased infection rates, and less readmission rates.

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