Scarborough Hospital works to improve patient experience

For John Dakin, being at the hospital was like being at home — but with “better drugs.”

He even requested to stay longer at the Scarborough Hospital after having knee surgery because of the treatment he received, he says.

Experience over service

The ideal patient experience, according to the Scarborough Hospital website:

Customer focused:
• Friendly, courteous and respectful
• Fosters trust
• Bring the service to the patient whenever feasible
• Culturally sensitive/in the right language
• All caregivers realize that the patient’s time is as important as their own
• Better food/culturally appropriate food

Involved and inclusive:

• Patient is involved in care plan
• Family and loved ones are involved as appropriate
• Inclusive of patient advocacy groups
• True informed consent

• One-stop shopping where possible
• Improve gaps in service
• Standardize policies and procedures at both sites
• Evaluate location of services to better support continuum of care

High Quality:
• Implement the right technology
• Improve or eliminate wait times
• Improve gaps in service

“The nurse that was on duty at the time was so helpful, whatever you wanted: a pillow or get a drink,” Dakin said. “I wrote a note after I got out of the hospital to thank them. Every single staff seemed to enjoy being there and [understood] how important their attitude was to the patients.”

Even while the Scarborough Hospital board works to get new equipment and improve facilities and services, the hospital is also focused on the patient experience, which is part of a “culture shift” that’s underway, hospital vice-chair Steve Smith said at a town hall meeting Nov. 16.

That experience includes where the patient goes, how quickly they’re seen, the ease of getting around and how they’re treated. It’s a new concept that’s not practised at many hospitals, he said.

“[People] want to be treated with respect,” Smith said. “They want high-quality care, which is almost a given, but it doesn’t have to be the latest, newest, best, most expensive.”

The meeting, held at the hospital’s Birchmount campus, was meant to update the public on the progress of the board’s recent initiatives. Attendees were encouraged to ask questions and address issues important to them.

Board members said the Scarborough Hospital’s goal is to ensure the patient’s voice is heard as it tries to improve the quality of patient care.

Some of the hospital’s staff and physicians already meet the unique needs of every patient, Smith said, while others are “starting to get there.”

Online participation encouraged

While the event focused on addressing the issue of communication, the hospital accommodated people who weren’t at the meeting by communicating with them via Twitter.

Dave Bourne, Scarborough Hospital corporate communications manager, says that the social networking tool was used for the first time at a town hall meeting, where he posted key points that were discussed.

“There wasn’t a lot of direct feedback as no one asked questions, but there was a lot of re-tweeting,” Bourne said. “I think it’s a great way to improve access so that people who can’t be here can still follow along. It creates a record so it’ll always be there for people to go to. I might actually cut and paste all that and make a webpage.”

He said that they’re going to evaluate the use of Twitter for future use.

As another means of communication, people can go on the hospital’s website to provide feedback and sign up for the electronic newsletter.

“Service is important,” he said. “But as important is the communication, the dialogue, being told what’s going on, being involved.”

The hospital recently did interviews with more than 3,000 people to get their opinions on what the ideal patient experience should be like. Smith showed a video of some of them.

Teresa Ng, who attended the meeting, responded to the video, asking how hospitals can break the language barrier.

“Some of them share that they don’t have the culture to communicate with the medical professionals,” Ng said.

Anne Marie Males, Scarborough Hospital’s patient experience vice-president , said the issue of communication is a “global problem” as patients who don’t speak English or don’t speak it well have the same concerns as English-speaking patients.

“They had the same fears, the same questions, the same feeling that they weren’t being communicattwied with, which was fascinating to me,” Males said.

She said the hospital used to rely solely on volunteer interpreters, but it now has two full-time interpreters — one who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese, and one who speaks Tamil — to better bridge the communication gap.

“They’ve been here about two weeks, and they’ve already run off their feet in terms of requests and dealing with patients and families,” Males said. “So improvements have been made, but we’ve got a lot of work to do still.”

She said the hospital is looking at training and educating staff to try to build a “critical mass of people” who understand the same language and know their roles and responsibilities.