Patient care drives health care innovations in Delaware

By Ken Mammarella

A customer-centered focus was front and center when Bayhealth created its Sussex Campus.

“It’s all about the voice of the patient,” said Marianne Foard, director of patient advocacy, service excellence and professional recruitment for the health-care provider. “It drives us.”

That’s why all 128 hospital beds in the new Milford facility are in private rooms — and the rooms have a couch that can be converted into a bed for overnighting visitors, a feature that’s been well used.

The hospital was opened this year with multiple “touch points” for encounters with patients and visitors. “Every few feet a staff member is there to help. We don’t point. We take you there.”

Patients expect quality health care, said Alex Sydnor, vice president of external affairs and chief strategy officer at Beebe Healthcare in Sussex County. They recognize — and are often vocal about — quality service. That’s why Beebe has a “patient-centered culture” and has partnered with the Studer Group, a health-care performance improvement firm.

One recent initiative involves recording doctors in a simulated consultation and having them review the video to assess their bedside manner for patient comfort and acquisition of information, he said.

At Beebe, “we take the care as close to the customer as we can,” Sydnor said. That philosophy led to more at-home monitoring devices, an advanced-care clinic in Long Neck, a second cancer center in Millville and a scheduled-surgery center in Rehoboth Beach.

All reduce travel times on country roads and congestion on Del. 1 and improve care for seniors who limit their driving.

That’s on top of four walk-in medical centers that for the first time this year are expected to treat more patients — more efficiently and less expensively — than the emergency room, he said.

Christiana Care Health System developed its $260 million Women and Children’s Building “in collaboration with patients and their families,” featuring private rooms for mothers and families.

It also offers express check-in at its five medical aid units. Patients go online to see wait times and reserve their place in line. Following a soft launch in 2017, the service now draws a third of all patients (45 percent at the University of Delaware STAR Campus) and saved 1.3 million minutes of waiting, said Dr. Edmondo J. Robinson, chief transformation officer and senior vice president for consumerism.

Christiana Care is using similar technology for scheduled inductions for pregnancies, preparing to expand the concept to lab work at eight sites and working to add preregistration components at its medical aid units, with consumers just getting their phones scanned for the information that they have filled out, like an airplane boarding pass.

At St. Francis Healthcare in Wilmington, one emphasis is on feedback. Nurse leaders on daily rounds and other hospital leaders on regular rounds ask for feedback from patients and caregivers. Dan Sinnott, president and CEO, and other hospital leaders invite patients to a monthly lunch to solicit feedback. A Patient Advisory Council provides more feedback.

There are also national trends to reduce noise and increase patients’ ability to sleep. Bayhealth offers a sleep kit (eye mask, ear plugs), TVs with sleep menus and snacks for restful sleep, Foard said.

“Yes, private rooms are a trend,” Foard said. “Yes, quiet at night is huge.” But Bayhealth has made patient-centered care an initiative since 2005, and it’s just one of seven health-care facilities in the world to earn silver status from a patient-centered advocacy organization called Planetree International.

At Bayhealth, patient feedback is leading to an autism-friendly room in the emergency department, developed with the University of Delaware. Patients tested the furniture for the new campus, just like in years past they tested uniform colors (navy and white for nurses, teal and tan for technicians).

The hospital and outpatient center cost $314 million, with Foard noting the cost for these patient-centered touches “is minimal when the staff is trained with empathy and compassion.”

“Every employee is part of the patient experience,” she said, clicking off a variety of training they undergo and noting how Bayhealth a year ago named Christine McGuire Chloros as quality and patient experience specialist to coordinate services to its cultural, spiritual, linguistic and other communities.

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