Ensuring a positive patient experience during a pandemic By Sarah Benn Orava and Kelly K. he COVID-19 Pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to the healthcare system, not the least of which was patient engagement – a vital element in ensuring a positive patient experience – a top-of-mind priority at West Park Healthcare Centre in any environment – pandemic or not. The hospital provides specialized rehabilitative and complex care after a life-altering illness or injury such as lung disease, amputation, stroke, and traumatic musculoskeletal injuries. As a result, many of our patients stay with us for weeks, months or longer. Additionally, many patients have a physical disability or communicate with their care team, family and peers using alternate methods. All of these factors helped shape our COVID-19 Patient Engagement Strategy. Over the course of the pandemic, ranges of Infection Prevention and Control measures have been implemented in hospitals to protect the safety of patients and staff. To reflect our core values, we have placed additional emphasis on our patient experience. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, our commitment to patient experience has stood strong. “From the outset we knew engagement of patients would continue to be an important strategy of our overall pandemic response” noted Kim Cook, Vice President, Programs, Chief Nursing Executive and Incident Commander at West Park Healthcare Centre. The COVID-19 Patient Engagement Strategy was developed by the Patient Experience Department in consultation with patients and families. The strategy was built on three pillars – consistent access to information; a reduction in social iso-
CONNECTION WITH LOVED ONES
Sarah Benn Orava and Kelly K. lation; and continuous connection with loved ones.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Timely and clear communication has been integral throughout the duration of the pandemic. Patients and their families continue to be kept informed on the ever-changing status and response to COVID-19. Information includes how the hospital is responding, how many active cases of COVID-19 are being reported at the Centre; the impact on patient care; and emotional and mental health information such as coping strategies, techniques, resources and regularly scheduled support groups. Reliable communication to all patients and family members takes place through various media including unit specific forums to engage patient and families, website and social media
updates, an email distribution list, hard copy updates, and Patient and Family Town Halls with an opportunity to ask questions directly to senior leadership.
REDUCING SOCIAL ISOLATION
The pandemic has been and continues to be an isolating time for everyone, but especially for patients and their families at West Park. To help minimize the feelings of isolation that intensified with necessary visitor restrictions, West Park created a larger team using redeployed employees to conduct daily friendly visits with patients. In addition, West Park modified recreation therapy, to provide leisure activities and reduce stress during the uncertain times. Taking this one step further, volunteers who were unable to come to West Park were engaged virtually to share their time with patients.
Regular communication and ongoing connection with patients’ loved ones has been essential. West Park has been achieving this through virtual communication made possible by staff facilitation when required. As well, additional communication devices were secured to support various communication needs. This approach was featured in the Patient Experience Journal Special Issue: Sustaining a Focus on Human Experience in the Face of COVID-19 entitled Maintaining a positive patient experience during COVID-19 in a rehabilitation and complex care setting. “We felt it was important to share the work we undertook in partnership with patients and family members as we head into a second wave of COVID-19,” says Cook. “We also hope to learn from others as we face another wave of COVID-19 this fall and winter.”
Moving forward, there is still work to be done, as West Park embarks on restoring clinical services and enters a “new normal” with COVID-19. Now, more than ever, the human experience is an integral foundation, and we are hopeful that the efforts West Park has made to acknowledge each person have helped build this foundation. We will continue to strive to listen, to work with dignity, to communicate in diverse ways that are clear and understandable, and to demonstrate how we stand together to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19. West Park will continue to be a leader in patient experience and engagement in the Rehabilitation and Complex Continuing Care sector. n H
Sarah Benn Orava, Patient Experience Advisor and Kelly K. is the Patient Family Advisor and Patient Family Advisor Co – Chair. 12 HOSPITAL NEWS NOVEMBER 2020