An integrated rural system, Lakewood Health System (LHS) understands the power that partnership with patients can bring. While Lakewood is smaller than other integrated systems in the state, it stands as an incredible example of true commitment to patients and families.

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Jennifer Strickland, Customer Experience Director, was charged with examining the patient experience across the system when the Customer Relations department was transitioned to Customer Experience, and her current position started in December of 2013.  Jennifer’s nursing background and over ten years of experience with Lakewood prepared her for the journey ahead. She and LHS leadership wanted to be more proactive with programs for formal engagement programming, and less reactive to patient concerns brought up after the fact.

With the transition of the Customer Experience Department, a primary goal was to develop an Experience Council. The vision was to incorporate staff from all areas within the system- from administration to leadership to front-line staff, and to incorporate patient and family members to assist in planning and decision making. Jennifer’s initial research found that most facilities were approaching patient and family engagement quite differently, and though names of the groups may be similar the focus and how they functioned varied greatly. She noted, “It was a bit overwhelming at first, being unsure as to where to start. But then we turned that around to a positive, realizing the freedom in that.”

The Experience Council’s membership is comprised of the President and CEO, a number of VPs, COO, CMO, frontline staff, a board member, physicians and patient and family members.  There are a total of 23 members. The Experience Council’s role was initially to examine experience and monitor concerns and patient satisfaction data and trends.

Jennifer states, “At first, the Experience Council’s patients were very quiet. To be fair, the number of staff present was a bit intimidating, as we outnumbered them 20 to 3! One member told me after a meeting, ‘My doctor was sitting across the table from me!’ So we made a decision to divide the meeting in smaller work groups for a bit of brainstorming to get us started. Every two minutes, people would rotate to another station to discuss a new topic, or from a different perspective. It would break it up—which helped people feel more comfortable.” The team made sure that some members of the Council held positions within the organization to approve decisions right then and there versus going to another level of leadership.

In March of 2014, Lakewood Health System worked with the Minnesota Hospital Association to simultaneously launch an “Include Always” pilot campaign within their hospital. They developed a Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC): 12 individuals who are patients, family members and individuals from the community.  The members were recommended by leaders or physicians, or perhaps they may have experiences with the System they wanted to share and help the hospital learn from. The PFAC created their own mission statement to ensure a strong purpose: ‘We will use our collective voice to enhance the collaboration between patients, family members, Lakewood Health System and our communities to provide healthcare that is compassionate, responsive, inclusive and innovative.’

 At PFAC meetings, 1-2 leaders from LHS will attend, otherwise the strong presence is the patient, family and community members. One important part of this council is to have patients be part of key decisions as the System navigates through health reform issues.  Additionally, the System has learned the value of asking opinions of patients and families early in the process of decisions—before rolling out a plan.

Lakewood also has a Patient and Family Advisory Group for the Medical Home program.  It meets every other month, and in addition to providing a place to elicit their feedback it also incorporates a great deal of education about Medicare, medications, and how to best utilize medical resources to successfully manage disease process.  All Medical Home patients are invited to attend these meetings, and participate in any and all discussions.

Contact Jennifer for more information.