Council places patients first; improves care

January 24th, 2017

One of the best ways to receive feedback about the patient experience at Memorial Hospital is to ask the people at the center of the care – patients.

In that spirit, Memorial formed a Patient and Family Advisory Council, which is comprised of patients and Memorial employees who have been a patient or had a family member who was a patient.

“This is a committed group of community members and hospital employees. Our goal is to help improve the relationships we have with patients and families, and to encourage patient-centered care,’’ said Britta Emenecker, who works as a program manager in the Office of Patient Experience.

Members of the council – four community members and five Memorial employees – strive to see the everyday happenings at the hospital through the eyes of patients, a point of view that helps inform conversations, learning and projects.

Members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council are pictured (from left to right): Sharon Douglas, Britta Emenecker, Nicki Skinner, Yvonne Muise, Christy Knouf, Stephanie Upton, Neil Klockziem, Kathy Flahive. Not Pictured: Bob Hinterberger.
Members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council are pictured (from left to right): Sharon Douglas, Britta Emenecker, Nicki Skinner, Yvonne Muise, Christy Knouf, Stephanie Upton, Neil Klockziem, Kathy Flahive. Not Pictured: Bob Hinterberger.

Members of the council include Emenecker, staff co-chair of the group; Stephanie Upton, an Emergency Department data management analyst; Kathy Flahive, who works in Trauma Services; Christy Knouf, who works in Clinical Data resources; Yvonne Muise, who works in Staffing Services; and community members Sharon Douglas, Bob Hinterberger, Neil Klockziem, community co-chair of the council; and Nicki Skinner.

In the last year, PFAC has addressed upgrades to the elevators at Memorial Hospital Central, improved signage and road lanes at entrances to MHC, begun work on improving wayfinding for patients and visitors, and is now providing hot beverages – fresh coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate — for visitors who wait in the surgical waiting room to support patients who are having surgery.

“This is an improvement from the previously offered vending machine coffee that was available prior to PFAC involvement, so this is an improvement that has positively impacted the families of our patients,” Upton said.

The council has the backing of Kay Miller, chief nursing officer for Memorial, who has helped expedite council projects. One of those involved beautifying a long, lackluster hallway that is frequently used by patients and visitors.

Council members worked in collaboration with Spiritual Care to create art for one of the walls, which is now adorned with a collage of 3.5-inch-square cards that were submitted by employees to show their engagement in patient care. The collage is a visual reminder of the commitment to providing the best patient experience possible for patients. The council has partnered with quality and is collaborating with process improvement to improve care for patients.

When a department is working on a new initiative, the council is often consulted so that the patient perspective is central to the planning of the project. The group was consulted to help provide input about a Total Joint Replacement class in which patients who are having knee and hip replacements can learn what to expect from the procedure.

The Patient and Family Advisory Council collaborated with Spiritual Care to add art to a long hallway at Memorial Hospital Central.
The Patient and Family Advisory Council collaborated with Spiritual Care to add art to a long hallway at Memorial Hospital Central.

“People are really grateful for the perspective that we are able to provide, and they find it very valuable. The council helps from an efficiency standpoint, too. If we are consulted prior to the start of a project or before there is a change in procedure, there is real value. We can help identify if something does not work from a patient perspective, saving the department the time of having to rework the project in the future,’’ Emenecker said.

According to the council’s web page, the purpose of the council is:

  • To improve patient experience
  • To provide patient-centered care
    To bring patients’ needs and concerns to Memorial Hospital’s health care and leadership teams
    To guide our priorities and planning for the future
  • To further enhance our relationship between the hospital and our communityNeil Klockziem, a Memorial volunteer who is part of the council, said that having committee members who have been a patient themselves or have a family member who has been a patient helps provide insight into patient care.

“We want to hear about their experience. It is vital because we find out how they believe that they were treated and how things went with their stay. We’re looking for input – positive input, which means that positive input can be about something negative that happened,’’ Klockziem said.

That information helps the council become aware of possible issues and work to correct them.

Nicki Skinner, a community member who works at the nearby U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, said the council’s work helps better the community.

“Every time we get together, it is our goal to improve the experience for patients and families at Memorial,’’ Skinner said. “For people in the hospital, it may be a really joyful time or it may be a difficult time. We, as council members, are reminded to always keep the patients in the forefront of our minds when making recommendations for improvement. We walk away from this work with a good feeling. We are helping the hospital and improving our community.”

Applicants who meet the following criteria are considered for appointment to the council:

  • Recent experience at Memorial Hospital as a patient or family member
  • Time availability to prepare for and attend monthly scheduled meetings held the first Tuesday of every month, noon to 1 p.m.
  • Ability to make decisions by consensus and support council decisions
  • Ability to make a one-year commitment to the council
  • As vacancies arise on the council, qualified and available candidates will be contacted for an interview with current PFAC members.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.