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For operational efficiency, look from the patient perspective

Posted Apr 16 2013 3:31pm

by Lourdes Boue

My mom suffers from advanced Alzheimer's disease and requires around-the-clock care. Recently, my workday routine was broken by a call from Mom's caregiver. "Your mother is having excruciating abdominal pains, and I think we need to go to the emergency room right now," she said.

As it happens, the closest ER is at my own place of employment, West Kendall Baptist Hospital, located in a Miami suburb southwest of the city.

I raced down to our emergency department to await Mom's arrival. During the brief walk downstairs, I shed my role as the hospital's vice president of operations. I entered the ED simply as a worried family member, one among dozens already seated there, waiting for news of their own relatives.

I am gratified to say that in the hours that followed, our ED team exceeded my expectations, providing expert and compassionate care. During a quite busy evening in the department, Mom was processed quickly through triage, stabilized and moved into a room.

Yet, all the time I have spent in these halls as a hospital executive did not fully prepare me for the patient's-eye view of hospital care. For example, the familiar routine of patient Q&A seemed painfully repetitive to me as I recited Mom's medical history over and over to various staff members. As a professional, I understand the redundancy, yet I now see the strain it can impose on patients and family members.

From a patient-records perspective, the fact that the physician could instantly access Mom's multi-year history electronically was invaluable. He was able to compare current CT images to those taken two years earlier at the touch of a button. This is the kind of efficiency we seek across all of our operations.

As the night wore on, I began to make a mental list of questions that occurred to me from the patient and family perspective. Why use Pampers-style undergarments rather than adult pull-ups on Mom? How are the rooms turned over in the ED? Why are other processes and procedures performed the way they are? Where can we seize opportunities for better coordination to make the entire experience flow more smoothly?

In the early hours of the morning, I caught a glimpse of several family members, both adults and children, gathered in a patient's room. It was clearly important to them to be there as a group at that moment to provide a healing environment for their loved one. Seeing our hospital's open-visitation policy in action underscored for me the family's role as caretakers and caregivers along with our staff.

Encouraging the family's presence at the bedside helps us leverage the information they can provide and supports the efficient management of patient care.

Lourdes Boue, vice president of operations at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, has more than three decades of experience as a healthcare executive in South Florida. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

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