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Holding their own in top 1%, Baptist brings home award

ER nurse Rick Lewis was a winner of the First Class award for fourth quarter 2001 at Baptist Health Systems.

JACKSON — Find out what’s wrong, then make it right — not such an easy task in the emotionally-charged environment of a hospital.

Nevertheless, it’s been the mantra of Baptist Health Systems for the past several years, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Jackson hospital was recently recognized for consistently maintaining a spot in the top 1% of hospitals its size nationwide based on patient satisfaction. The award, called the Quality Institution designation, came from Press, Ganey Associates Inc. of Richmond, Va., the country’s largest patient satisfaction measurer. Baptist is only the seventh hospital in the nation to receive the award from Press Ganey, and the second hospital in its size category to receive the award.

Press Ganey does recognize hospitals that make tremendous improvements over a year’s time, but Baptist’s award is only given to hospitals that demonstrate sustained performance over a long period of time. Baptist maintained a 99% level of customer satisfaction for all four quarters of 2001 and has held its place in the top 10% for several quarters before that.

“They have a true success story that needs to be told,” said Dr. Rod Ganey, president of Press Ganey. “I have to say they weren’t always this good. They really made an effort to improve because of the things we see in their data.”

When Baptist joined the Press Ganey program in 1997, no one at the hospital thought they would reach the top 1% — they just wanted to focus on improving courtesy, said Eddie James, Baptist’s director of facility operations and performance improvement, who coordinates the Press Ganey project for the hospital.

“From a management perspective, we could say or do all we wanted, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference,” said James. “We wanted to focus on the culture of the hospital — everyone who comes in contact with patients.”

Press Ganey gathers its information from surveys that member hospitals like Baptist send out to discharged patients with questions regarding admissions, meals, rooms, friendliness of staff and other aspects of their stay. The completed surveys are sent to Press Ganey, whose staff scores them and compares Baptist’s results with the 732 hospitals that are Press Ganey members. There are currently 96 member hospitals in Baptist’s size category of 450-599 beds.

Patient comments on the surveys have brought about changes in the way Baptist does business. One repeated complaint was that patients’ rooms were not cleaned during their stay. Records showed the rooms had indeed been cleaned, but the patient was out of the room for radiology, X-rays or some other procedure, said James. The cleaning staff now places a card in each room after cleaning, informing the patient that they were there and offering a phone number to call if they are dissatisfied.

Another complaint came from patients who needed their meals sooner because of scheduled treatment that day, such as physical therapy, so Baptist changed the order of how meals are delivered so patients can get their meals before they leave for treatment.

The hospital also began leaving cards for in-patients, and later emergency room patients, welcoming them to the hospital and offering numbers to call to resolve problems while they are still in the hospital. This practice has led to much higher results in surveys, said James.

Satisfied employees, happy patients

In trying to improve a patient’s stay at Baptist, it quickly became apparent that staff attitude played a huge role in patient satisfaction. Baptist employees created a program called First Class that all employees are required to complete as a part of new-employee orientation. The 16-step program teaches staff how to “convey a spirit of genuine concern” by promptly welcoming customers, anticipating other people’s needs before being asked, apologizing for problems or inconveniences, taking ownership of any problems identified until resolved, and other steps.

First Class also rewards employees who make an extra effort to help patients and family members. First Class winners for the fourth quarter 2001 were ER nurses Pat Scott and Rick Lewis, who went above and beyond their job descriptions for a man who was admitted to the ER in critical condition. The patient told Scott and Lewis that he was very worried about his dog, who was alone at home with no one to care for him. Lewis and Scott assured the man that they would pick the dog up and care for it until other arrangements could be made. Scott even offered to pick up the patient when he was discharged and take him to pick up his dog.

To ensure the hospital can maintain its current level of customer satisfaction, Baptist plans to re-energize employees with a follow-up to First Class.

During their visits to Jackson, Ganey said his firm was very impressed by the teamwork of Baptist’s 3,000 employees, and their attitudes toward their jobs and their patients.

“There are two components that make for a great outcome,” he said. “One is a focus on customer satisfaction, and the other is employee satisfaction. We got a chance to talk to a lot of their people. They have a corporate culture that is really terrific, and that conveys to the patients. Those two things go hand in glove.”

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Russell Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com.

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