How reform is impacting the health care experience Featured

8:01pm EDT August 31, 2012
How reform is impacting the health care experience

Long before the Supreme Court upheld health care reform, health care organizations had begun implementation of substantial changes, moving from a system of caring for the sick to one focused on improving each individual’s health and wellness. Today’s consumers are increasingly taking control of their health and collaborating as true members of health care teams — for the betterment of themselves and of their communities.

To learn more, Smart Business turned to Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., president and CEO of MemorialCare Health System and past chair of the California Hospital Association.

How is reform impacting health care?

One area that health care reform is addressing is the ‘Triple Aim’ of improving quality of care, reducing health care costs and also enhancing the patient experience. MemorialCare has been in the forefront of innovative and cost-effective health care delivery since opening its first hospital in 1905. It aims to continually improve patient quality, safety, satisfaction and outcomes, and engage consumers of all ages in improving their health, wellness and lifestyle.

The system realized decades ago the importance of establishing a more scientific approach to improving health care outcomes. That is when it became a national pioneer in best-practice, evidence-based medicine. The systems’ physician-led interdisciplinary teams identify, create, refine and expand upon the best diagnostic, treatment and prevention for virtually every disease, illness and medical category that a patient may face. Implementing optimal clinical standards across the entire health care system allows MemorialCare hospitals to achieve patient outcomes that surpass national and regional standards.

What is the role of electronic medical records (EMRs)?

To support evidence-based medicine, MemorialCare adopted electronic medical records systemwide. Many years ago, it was the first in Orange County to have a hospital go completely live with EMRs and all of its major facilities have comprehensive digital systems. The results are higher quality and safer care with clinicians able to immediately access patient records. Electronic records in physician offices and other locations add to benefits of more coordinated, seamless care throughout the MemorialCare Health System. And consumers who have begun adopting their own personal health records through the system’s patient portals translates into more people who are actively participating in their health care.

How are patients and families involved?

Patients and families are engaged in a variety of different ways. Education, screenings and health prevention programs are offered at hospitals, physician practices and outpatient centers as well as in the community, at the worksite and schools and online at memorialcare.org. Patient and Family Advisory Councils offer important advice on new and existing programs and services, helping to redesign key interactions by offering the ‘voice of the customer.’ And staff-led Partnership Councils collaborate on performance improvement and on patient experience projects.

An example of these efforts is the Executive Rounding. Each week, members of the system’s leadership team ask patients throughout the facilities about their care, allowing us to learn first-hand how we are doing and how staff can impact the hospital experience. Following these interactions, teams members immediately huddle with staff in that area — celebrating the positives, sharing feedback and opportunities to improve, discussing ideas and next steps.

Another example is the Hourly Patient-Family Rounds that supplement patient care provided 24/7. Each hour, someone checks in on patients, ensuring they are comfortable and that their needs are being met, thus building trusting relationships. The result has been better responses and communications among patients and their caregivers, with less anxious patients and improved patient and family satisfaction.

What about population health management?

For years, MemorialCare has participated in programs to coordinate and improve care of children and adults in the community with cancer, heart disease, orthopedic issues, asthma, diabetes, weight issues and scores of other diseases and chronic conditions in order to help consumers take control of both their health and their lives.

The Good Life program focuses on highly improving the health and wellness of employees and their families through fitness programs, nutritious offerings in the cafeterias and support for those with conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. This program is also extended to local employers who tap the system’s expertise to improve the health of their own work forces with onsite screenings and seminars, executive and employee physicals and more. MemorialCare also hosts programs to help employers adapt to health care reform, assist in trimming health benefits and health care costs and in improving productivity.

These combinations of activities in best-practice, evidence-based medicine and in advanced technologies, improving the patient experience, managing the health of the population and providing true value in health care have proven critical to all the communities the health system serves. These efforts will continue to result in extraordinary quality, proven treatments and comprehensive care that continually raise medical standards and meet the important goals of health care reform and beyond.

Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., is the president and CEO of MemorialCare Health System. The Southern California not-for-profit health care delivery system includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Community Hospital Long Beach, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit memorialcare.org.

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