Janesville19.5°

Edgerton Hospital hires Studer Group to improve operations, staff communication

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Neil Johnson
June 11, 2013

— If you’re a surgical patient at Edgerton Hospital, expect your hospital room to be packed with medical staff at least once a day.

Along with family members, you’ll be crowded by nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists and dieticians who’ll gather collectively in your room to discuss your care and progress.

For patients at smaller hospitals who expect to see a nurse or two make hourly rounds as quiet as a mouse, a daily, all-staff entourage coming in their rooms can be a bit surprising, said Patient Care Services Vice President Caryn Oleston.

“Some patients are like, ‘Whoa, what are you doing?’ They say, ‘Wow, you guys are all in here to talk about me? This is awesome,’” Oleston said.

It’s called rounding, and it’s one strategy the hospital has implemented through a recent partnership with The Studer Group, an international health care consulting company with roots in Janesville.

The hospital has sparked a three-year partnership with The Studer Group to improve communications, ensure employee accountability and smooth operations at the 18-bed, critical access hospital.

The partnership comes after the hospital last year found itself in trouble with regulators for a staffing violation. Edgerton Hospital was cited by state and federal authorities after an anonymous complaint surfaced that the hospital left its emergency room without staff for nearly an hour overnight Aug. 9, 2012, while patients were there, the report said.

The complaint was linked to an “unexpected” cardiac emergency in August that left a patient dead, according to a state report. An investigation showed the hospital had improper staffing levels in some of its departments based on the hospital’s own policies on a dozen days last year, according to state records.

The hospital in 2011 moved from near downtown to a new facility on the city’s far-east side. Among changes in management, the hospital established a split-affiliation with large regional hospital group SSM Health Care.

Oleston said the new location and affiliation have created high public expectations for quality health care.

“We wanted the culture to be what the expectations were in this beautiful new setting,” she said. “It’s good to have a consultant come through once in a while. You sometimes get blinders on to the things that are opportunities for improvement.”

Through its partnership, the hospital is in the midst of changing some of its management practices. Among other measures, Oleston said, the hospital’s top officials now are:

n Hosting weekly meetings with department administrators to discuss potential improvements in safety and operations, to set goals for improvements in patient care and financial profitability and to check to see if administrators are on track to meet those goals.

n Establishing improvement plans with staff members who have been designated as “middle” and “low” performers.

n Making daily rounds to departments to check on operations and ask staff and patients about needs, problems and potential improvements.

n Establishing a checklist of patient-friendly actions. Those actions include giving patients estimates of how long a procedure will take and making rounds to emergency room lobbies to update patient families.

Hospital Quality Director Elizabeth Luchsinger said new plans such as daily all-staff rounds in the hospital’s surgical in-patient ward are “vital” to hospital operations and communication.

“It’s so that patients can be updated every day and have their questions answered every day,” she said. “It’s a really good tool to work with improving communication.”

Oleston said the hospital’s partnership with The Studer Group was in the works at the time of its 2012 staffing violations and is not directly linked to the hospital’s “immediate jeopardy” citation.

Hospital spokeswoman Sunny Bowditch said the hospital now is in “full compliance” with state and federal rules.

Oleston said the hospital under its own guidelines always has maintained appropriate staffing based on the number of inpatients and patient needs, although the investigations last year suggested otherwise.

The findings in the investigation put the hospital under “immediate jeopardy” by the Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Immediate jeopardy” is applied when violations are shown to seriously endanger patients, and it can result in the loss of Medicare and Medicaid funding, according to officials.

While Oleston said the partnership isn’t directly rooted as a reparation for the hospital’s violations last year, she said the hospital’s plans for improved communication and daily all-staff rounds offer vital checks and balances for daily operations and ensure accountability of everyone who works at the hospital.

Moreover, she said, the plan will bolster trust in the community.

“This is a community hospital. They (the public) need to know that they can trust the hospital and that they’re getting good-quality care,” Oleston said. “That is why we brought in The Studer Group. We understand that we are really taking a look at all quality perspectives and safety perspectives.”



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