A hospital plant manager builds a wheelchair ramp for a woman who doesn't have one at her house. An obstetrics nurse takes money out of her own purse to buy a new mother needed baby supplies.
At 521-bed Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., which launched a patient service improvement program less than two years ago, such good Samaritan stories have become commonplace.
"We create legends," says Quint Studer, president of Baptist, which won this year's Marriott Service Excellence Award for Patient Service. "We have stories all over the place."
That wasn't the case a little more than a year ago, when Baptist's patient satisfaction scores were among the lowest in the country. Now patients rank Baptist among the best. Compared with 460 other hospitals, Baptist rose from the 9th percentile in January 1996 to the 98th percentile in January 1997, according to Press, Ganey Associates in South Bend, Ind.
In addition, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations awarded Baptist accreditation with commendation after the hospital scored a 97 out of 100 in an October 1996 survey. The hospital also received the Voluntary Hospitals Association of America's 1997 Leadership Award.
And all these accomplishments were made without adding staff or capital.
"Instead of making incremental improvement, we wanted to make a quantum leap," Studer says.
Baptist began its patient service improvement program in summer 1995 under the leadership of Al Stubblefield, currently executive vice president of Baptist Healthcare and then administrator of Baptist Hospital.
Feeling the threat of managed care and competing hospitals in the area, Baptist wanted families to choose its facility over other healthcare providers, says Charlie Brannan, chief operating officer of Baptist.
In its rigorous program, Baptist organized seven cross-functional teams.
For example, the "removing patient irritants" team identifies situations that annoy patients and suggests ways to eliminate them. Baptist stopped paging staff over the PA system because patients were irritated by the noise. The hospital even placed La-Z-Boy recliner chairs in the waiting room to replace its uncomfortable seats.
The "Wow" team rewards staff for outstanding patient service. Employees' good deeds are recognized with Wow cards, which can later be exchanged for gift certificates at stores or restaurants in town.
The five other teams deal with developing employee standards, putting the hospital's missions and values into action, soliciting information from physician staff to improve care, printing and distributing interhospital communications, and conducting patient satisfaction surveys to track the program's results.
The teams meet independently to brainstorm and implement improvement ideas based on conversations with individual patients.
"They're constantly speaking with patients and asking what can be done," says Gail Boylan, vice president for patient-care services and team overseer. "They tell me what direction they're going. I'm their leader and I have to hurry and catch up."
With changes in patient care, employee attitude has changed as well. Overall employee satisfaction increased to a 3.8 on a five-point scale in July 1997 from a 2.9 in February 1996, according to surveys taken by an outside consulting firm.
Customer satisfaction has a direct correlation with employee attitude, Studer says.
"We measure employee attitude and take it just as seriously as we do patient satisfaction," he says. "Sometimes the same irritants that bother patients also bother employees. Our purpose is to create a good place to work and a good place to get care."