Journey to an award-winning patient experience

Toronto East General Hospital wins 20 Faces of Change Award

There is no better person than John Harper to declare that the 20 Faces of Change Award belongs to Toronto East General Hospital (TEGH).

The Change Foundation named TEGH as one of the winners of the award last Monday. It was created to honour individuals or organizations that have made a positive impact on Canada’s health care field.

Harper, 71, has been a patient at TEGH four times. He had two strokes, a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrhythmia during a stress test. He was nursed back to health through effective and efficient treatment at TEGH – and now volunteers in the hospital’s emergency room.

“I have pretty much totally recovered from the stroke, and I attribute that to the very rapid treatment received,” Harper said in a phone interview from his East York home.

After being treated for his most recent stroke, Harper recalled having excellent physiotherapy and follow-up sessions from TEGH staff, who made sure that he was back in good shape.

“They did so to the extent that six months later, I got my driver’s licence back,” he chuckled.

Although he was anxious about each diagnosis, Harper complimented the hospital on his patient experiences, describing them as “consistently excellent.”

“The doctors were very good at explaining exactly what was happening throughout the process, as were the nurses,” he said. “They were there when I needed them.”

Harper’s positive experience with the hospital was one of many patient-oriented initiatives TEGH has been recognized for.

The Change Foundation was particularly impressed by the hospital’s Patient Video Program initiative, where patient feedback and experiences are documented in three- to four-minute videos and showed during leadership team meetings. These are followed by the discussion and planning of patient-centred improvement opportunities.

Mari Iromoto, director of Improvement and Innovation at TEGH, described the program as a journey, and “by no means an easy one.”

It started as a two-person operation, and has since grown into a more distributed team model involving five departments within the hospital.

“It’s a point in time where we can stop and actually be recognized for the work that we’ve been doing,” Iromoto said.

Since 2011, Iromoto and her team have been able to capture more than 100 patient videos.

Patients were asked questions not only about their medical procedure experience, but also about everything else, from food services to the layout and temperature of the room.

“We ask (ourselves) what could we have done differently, what were some of the causes of the patient’s experience and who else would benefit from seeing this video,” Iromoto said.

Wolf Klassen, vice president of Program Support, was able to bring the patient videos before the hospital’s board of directors.

“We have found the videos an excellent way for our board of directors to hear directly from a patient, as often, there wouldn’t be that opportunity,” he said. “Patients wouldn’t be comfortable coming into a room of people meeting to share their stories.”

To Klassen, patient-oriented culture at TEGH means putting the patient first. Judith John, patient specialist and one of the jurors of the 20 Faces of Change award, agreed.

“They had a very clear commitment to patient engagement, and were involved to drive changes within the system,” she said in a phone interview.

According to John, the review process for the award was precise, with a detailed strict scoring system. A key criterion the jury was looking for among the nominees is measurable impact.

“Every organization has the will; every hospital says that they are dedicated to patient-centred care – and it’s true – but we were looking for new initiatives and results that could be mapped, and for the involvement of the patient throughout the process,” John said.

And TEGH did just that, with its Patient Video Program initiative.

“It reminds everybody in health care that a person wearing a blue hospital gown is more than a patient number or a procedure there,” John said. “The people they are taking care of are people. The person is looking for acknowledgement as an individual as well.”

Twenty recipients across Ontario’s health care field, selected from 80 nominees, shared the award. The award was established this year to commemorate The Change Foundation’s 20th anniversary.

Harper now volunteers at TEGH’s emergency room every Wednesday. Between tucking in patients with colourful handmade blankets and making sure visitors know where they’re going, he takes the time to talk and listen to everyone. That makes him one of the most recognizable faces at the hospital.

“I’m very, very proud to be part of the team at the hospital,” he said.