By Michele Pilon
Chief Executive Officer, Transylvania Regional Hospital
As summer wraps up, I want to thank the generous community members who have been patients, or had family members as patients, at Transylvania Regional Hospital (TRH) in the past, and volunteered their time to contribute to an exciting new initiative with the goal to examine and enhance our services: the Patient and Family Advisory Council, or PFAC.
The PFAC concept has risen in the healthcare industry over the last decade, because patient outcomes have become the measures by which our success is determined. Patient outcomes include things like whether a patient is thoroughly monitored and successfully treated or if they need to be readmitted for any reason, what supports a hospital has in place for patients’ families and, very importantly, each patient’s own satisfaction.
PFACs are diverse groups comprised of patients, family members, caregivers and healthcare institution administrators. Their goals are simple: to analyze the patient experience and shape it through members’ feedback and brainstorming. Healthcare professionals learn about the perspectives of patients and families, and vice versa. The environment is one of respect where everyone has the same goal: improving care.
PFAC volunteer members are asked to attend one meeting per month to discuss initiatives that can improve the quality and safety of care we provide. They provide input on patient education materials, hospital room design, safety issues and more. The member application process involves personal interviews and background checks, so each volunteer is carefully vetted.
About a year ago, TRH started planning our PFAC, and we now have six members on board. Colette Badger is our Clinical Coordinator of Patient Experience for the Western Region and she got the project off the ground. She notes that the new group has already driven change on several fronts in a short time because they care about this hospital. “I’ve seen that our volunteers want our hospital to thrive; their commitment to community guides them to this work, and our volunteers attend meetings without fail,” she says.
Badger’s impressed that the PFAC tackled a familiar challenge head on, right away. “Our first meeting was last October. Historically, a communications ‘thorn in our side’ has been wayfinding, or directional signage and maps – partly because of various construction projects going on here during the last couple of years,” she explains. “We toured the inside of the hospital and walked all around the outside of our building, and the PFAC members found many opportunities for improvement; it was amazing.” She adds that some interior signage changes have already been made, and that improved exterior signage is being developed. “This process helped us discover that Google Maps had the hospital in the incorrect location, that our address was listed differently in various places, and other inconsistencies. We’ve set about correcting that with Google and revamped and simplified our campus map so it’s more user-friendly.”
Other PFAC accomplishments and current projects that Badger lists include:
- Enacting a fairly new 2-4 pm quiet time in the hospital to ensure that patients can rest well in order to heal; per PFAC feedback, patients can now feel comfortable with closing their doors, and hospital staff can support the effort to keep traffic and interruptions low. This is in addition to our customary 10 pm-6 am quiet period where staff awaken our patients only when completely necessary. Our most recent Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) periodic patient survey score for “Quiet at Night” was an encouraging 68 percent, up from 32 percent in a past survey.
- Evaluating the possibility of adding white noise, a zen-inspired music channel and calming images to our hospital room TV menus.
- Production of a new patient orientation booklet that provides essential information, but is less lengthy and cumbersome than the old one.
“PFAC members tell me that their commitment is fueled by this progress. They appreciate that we’re listening as an organization to what they have to say,” concludes Badger.
I’m thrilled with our PFAC’s impact on how things are done here at TRH. This is thanks to their commitment, engagement and wish to see us prosper.
Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.