The Patient Experience – Up Close and Personal

In the past three weeks, I have had two medical procedures where I encountered first hand, an amazing Patient Experience.

In the past, I have written about the Patient Experience from an outsider’s perspective, but this time, it was up close and personal.

If you like details, read on. If you want the bottom line, go to the bottom of this post.

During my annual physical earlier this year, my long-time personal physician, Dr. Michael Sherrill, reminded me that, as someone above the age 50, I really needed to schedule a colonoscopy. After 7 years of reminders, I gave in and scheduled it for the last week of May.

About the same time, an umbilical hernia that had developed several years earlier became larger – and painful. Once again, my PCP said it was time to correct that, as it would only get larger and more painful. Following a quick referral to a surgeon, I scheduled the surgery for June 12.

CGHColonoscopy 

Even though the process of scheduling my colonoscopy took longer than expected, at every step of the way I was both amazed and pleased at the outcome:

  • My initial consult with the doctor performing the procedure was very informative and thorough. More importantly, I felt genuine care and concern from my doctor, not just part of the day’s schedule to be rushed through.
  • After leaving the doctor, I went to the scheduler, who also was very thorough in explaining the preparation I would need to go through, the options for the meds needed, and a personal connection to someone in the office should I have any questions in the meantime.
  • At the checkout, I was given information from the office of my insurance verification and coverage for the procedure
  • Four days prior to the procedure, I received a call from the office, asking if I had any questions about the procedure, the preparation for it, and the diet adjustments.
  • Having had a sigmoidoscopy 30 years ago, I recalled the preparation to be unpleasant, consuming over a gallon of foul-tasting liquid to cleanse the colon. It worked, but the taste of strawberry medicine to this day gags me. This time around, two sixteen glasses of a water/solution mix, followed by a glass of water was much more pleasant.
  • On the day of the procedure, I checked in with a very pleasant receptionist, who had everything ready to go, pointed out a comfortable waiting room for my wife, and ushered me back to the prep nurse, who led me through the final forms (digitally signed and stored).
  • I was then escorted to my prep room, where the prep nurse went over briefly what would occur over the next few hours, and laid out a packet pulled from a metal cabinet. The packet contained my robe and a blanket. What I didn’t know until I put the robe on was the fact that it was a heated robe, which felt really comfortable in a chilly room!
  • Next, I was introduced to the nurse anesthetist, who explained what her part of the procedure was, and helped the nurse get me ready with an IV. With that in place, I was wheeled into the procedure room.
  • There I met my doctor, who introduced me to the tech who would be assisting her, and asked if I had any questions. Having none, I was asked to scoot a little over to one side, and after that I remembered nothing till I woke up in a recovery room.
  • The nurses checked on me as soon as I was awake, bringing some juice and water to drink. Shortly after that, the doctor came in with a preliminary report – all good, with one biopsy report to follow.
  • My wife (whom the doctor had already visited with) was ushered in to sit with me for a little while to make sure I was steady enough to dress. While we were both there, the nurse came by with discharge information, and again, a personal connection should I have any questions over the next few days.
  • Another nurse brought a wheel chair in, helped me into it, and wheeled me out to our car.
  • The next day, I received a call from the office, asking if everything was going okay, and a reminder to call immediately if I had any concerns.

My routine colonoscopy at Charlotte Gastroenterology & Hepatology was flawless throughout the whole process. Dr. Cullen and the whole team assisting her – Tawni, Deb, Brenda, Monica, and Joy – provided first class, personal care throughout the whole process – from beginning to end (pun intended).

NovantHealthlogoUmbilical Hernia Repair

Just two weeks later, I was preparing for my first surgical experience. Unlike the initial steps of the colonoscopy, this went very quickly.

  • Two days after the visit to my personal physician and his referral, I received a call from the surgeon’s office to schedule the initial consult with the surgeon – which was set up for the following week.
  • At the initial consultation, the receptionist gave me the traditional form set with a twist – they were set up with a special pen and paper so they would be transferred digitally and available for me, my PCP, and the surgeon as needed.
  • A nurse called me back, took the preliminary information needed, and said the surgeon would be in shortly.
  • Within 10 minutes, the surgeon walked in, introduced himself, reviewed my complete medical history (sent over by my PCP), and asked if there were any changes. When I informed him about the upcoming colonoscopy, he suggested that we schedule the hernia surgery following the colonoscopy, as there was a small chance that the gas used to inflate the colon could damage the hernia repair incision. If that had not been the case, I would have been able to have the surgery the next week – less than two weeks after the initial consult.
  • Warning me that the exam would be a little painful (after all, I had a tear in my abdominal muscle) the surgeon proceeded to determine what was needed. After the exam, his initial recommendation was laparoscopic surgery to repair a golf-ball sized tear. He also told me while this was a routine operation for him (he has done over 200), he assured me that he and his team would treat it with the utmost care possible. After answering a couple of questions, he escorted me to the scheduler’s office to set it up. Thanking me for coming to him, and saying he would send a note to my PCP, he said he would see me in a few weeks.
  • The scheduler was very pleasant and efficient to work with – she was obviously very familiar with the process. Noting that it would be several weeks out, she recommended a Friday time slot because it allowed for the least disruption to my schedule. With that all set up, she walked me to back to the front office.
  • During the time I had been in the exam, the office staff had printed all the forms, contacted and verified my insurance, along with an estimate of my out-of-pocket costs. Answering one question, she gave me all the information and I was on my way out in, the total visit less than one hour.
  • One week before the surgery, the hospital called to verify my information and get any changes in my condition since the visit to the surgeon. The caller was very friendly and had a sense a humor – when asked if I had any recent weight loss, I asked if the colonoscopy prep counted, she laughed and said I didn’t have to tell her anymore. At the conclusion of the call, she informed where to park, which door to enter, and wished me well.
  • Two days prior to the surgery, the surgeon’s office called with a reminder of the date and time, as well as the night-before preparation. Again, the caller was very cordial, seemed in no hurry and wished me well.
  • On the day of the surgery, my wife and I drove to the hospital, where the parking was as noted, and convenient to the entrance. There was an option for Valet Parking, but I didn’t want to do that. The receptionist greeted us with a smile, asked for my name, and escorted me back to the surgery area.
  • There my information was verified, my wife was given a code to follow the surgery process on a screen on the wall, asked if she needed anything, and then we went back to the prep area.
  • In a small but comfortable room, a nurse met us, reviewed my information, and gave me a kit which included a bag for my clothes, a robe, socks, and a heated blanket. Once I changed out, she returned to place the IV for the antibiotics and anesthesia.
  • A surgical nurse came by to review my information and the procedure, asking if I had any questions. While talking with her, the anesthesiologist came by – possibly the funniest medical conversation I have ever had. While talking with me, the other anesthesiologist stuck his head in the door and was cracking jokes with the nurses, me, and his partner about an ongoing completion they were having.
  • My surgeon was next, stopping by to update me on the morning’s schedule, reviewed the procedure, and asked if I had any questions. He told my wife he would be out to talk with her as soon as the surgery was over.
  • After about an hour’s comfortable wait, a flurry of activity began with the preliminary anesthesia, leg circulation pads, and a final review of my vitals.
  • Telling my wife goodbye, I was wheeled to the surgical suite. The nurse transporting me joked about her speed and being in NASCAR country, said she would try to keep me out of the wall.
  • In the operating room, I was asked a final time about my information, and saw a mask coming down over my face. The next thing I remember I was in the recovery room.
  • Evidently I had spent about an hour in a step-down recovery room, where everything was monitored.
  • As I slowly awoke in a recovery room, the nurses constantly checked on the process of coming out of anesthesia, and removed my IV. When I was alert enough to know who and where I was, my wife was escorted in. The surgeon had met with her in a conference room, and reviewed the entire procedure with her, explaining the repair was more extensive than he originally thought, but that he was fully confident of the success – if I followed the post-op procedures and follow-up visit instructions.
  • After about 30 minutes in the recovery room, the nursing staff felt I was ready to dress and go home.
  • The nurse came in and reviewed my discharge papers, asked if there were any questions, and then reminded me of the contact numbers if needed over the weekend.
  • A transport tech came, helped me into the wheelchair, and wheeled me to the entrance, where my wife was waiting to take me home.
  • I was under the affects of the anesthesia for the rest of the day, and also a 72-hour painkiller in the incision. I was given additional painkillers to begin when the anesthesia wore off.
  • Under the care of Dr. Mom, I am following the post-operative instructions with minimal discomfort (thanks to the meds, I’m sure).

The entire process, while seemingly routine to the surgeon, and hospital staff, was handled with excellent care at every step. Of course, with my Guest Services passion, I was looking for signs of a process designed with the patient in mind, and this certainly was the case. Dr. Ike Bhasin of Surgical Specialists of Charlotte, and the staff of Huntersville Medical Center provided excellent care, from initial consult to the surgery itself.

Of course, this was not really a surprise to me, as in the first room I went to, there was a prominent poster displayed:

At Huntersville Medical Center, our goal is providing you with Excellent Care. If you receive anything less, please contact us immediately.

Following that statement were two names and contact numbers.

This was not just a statement on the wall; it was backed up by the care shown to me every step of the way.


 

Bottom Line – Excellence of Patient Care Demonstrated

  • I was always treated with courtesy and respect
  • I was always treated as an individual – not a number or a case
  • I was followed up with post-procedure phone calls
  • Both organizations worked as teams, but individuals on the teams made the great impressions
  • Non-verbal communication skills were utilized by the staff
  • I was always asked if I had any questions
  • Staff always demonstrated careful and active listening
  • Understandable explanations were always given
  • Discharge information was clearly presented and confirmed

Bottom – Bottom Line

  • The reality was that medical procedures I had were considered routine by the medical profession. The impression I received, though, made me feel anything but routine.

Bottom – Bottom – Bottom Line

  • I am not just a satisfied customer; I am now a loyal patient of the 3 organizations and staffs I have encountered over the last few weeks – and I am telling friends and family of the courteous, respectful treatment I received.

What could your organization learn from my recent patient experiences?

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