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Service Excellence

I was walking down the hall at Rutland Regional Medical Center the other day and I was delighted. I watched one of our X-ray technicians walk a patient to the hall at the completion of the patient’s visit. The technician said to the patient, “Thank you for choosing Rutland Regional. Thank you for trusting us with your care.”  The patient looked astounded and noticed that something was different.

Something is different at Rutland Regional. Something is changing. For the last year, we have been working hard to change a part of our culture. We are working hard to have what we call Service Excellence because we want to provide our patients with the best experience possible. 

At its core, Service Excellence is not very complicated. We want to ensure that our patients know how much, how deeply, we care about them. We want them to be treated kindly. Of course, we want them to get great care. But we also want to thank them for entrusting us with their care.

In order to accomplish this Service Excellence culture change for our community, there are concrete things we are doing to bring it about.           

  • Every inpatient is rounded on (visited) by a nurse leader every day to see that their stay is going well.
  • Every patient who is discharged is getting a call a couple of days later to see how they are doing.
  • In one example, one of our nurses called a patient who had been discharged and talked to their spouse. The spouse told the nurse that she had not been able to wake her husband up for the last 12 hours and wasn’t sure if this was normal. That led to our nurse asking more questions, which in turn led to a call to the ambulance service, and a return of the patient to the Emergency Department. Sometimes, we assume our patients and their families know what to do and have a plan because we work in healthcare and we know what we would do. It’s not always true, and the work of our nurse doing the patient call back that day probably saved this patient’s life. We are making real improvements in the care of our patients, and this is only the beginning of the changes and improvements we are undertaking.
  • Clear Service Standards have been put in place for all staff to guide their interactions with patients.
  • We are training staff in additional ways to communicate with patients that reinforce how much we care. The patient coming out of X-ray that I mentioned above experienced the result! 

And it is working. Community members have noticed progress and have told me so. More impressively, our patient satisfaction survey scores have increased markedly. It is working. 

Are we perfect?  No — we are on a journey to improve for our patients and our community. But proudly, we can say it is a journey where we have been making real progress. Our community deserves nothing less. Thank you for trusting us with your care! 

Thomas W. Huebner, President

Setting the Bar Higher with Customer Service Standards

Something is different at Rutland Regional. Something is changing.  For the last year and a half, we have been working hard to change a part of our culture. We are working hard to have what we call Service Excellence because we want to provide our patients with the best experience possible. Some of the specific changes we have made include nurse leader rounding on patients, post-visit patient call backs, and a patient communication framework called AIDET.  

One of the most important parts of this Service Excellence work is to put in place a set of Customer Service Standards.  These service standards describe the desired behaviors and expectations for our staff to deliver superior service to our patients, families, and also to each other as co-workers. Through our service standards we will create clarity and consistency so that our patients and families will always receive the same superior service, no matter who they may come into contact with during their time with us.  We already provide great service most of the time, we want to provide great service ALL of the time. 

There are six overarching service standards at Rutland Regional. They include:

  • Every patient is my patient, every customer is my customer.
  • I care for our patients and customers in a compassionate and professional manner.
  • I am positive in all of my actions & attitudes with patients, customers and coworkers.
  • I foster a welcoming environment that promotes healing.
  • I am an ambassador for this organization while working and while in the community.
  • I model the Service Standards and coach others to live them, Always.

As we educate and train our staff, volunteers, and physicians on our service standards, we provide a number of very specific actions for each service standard that describe how it can be demonstrated to our patients, families and to each other as co-workers. 

For example, under the first service standard of “Every patient is my patient, every customer is my customer” some of the specific actions include: 

  • I anticipate and respond to the needs of every patient, family & customer from request to resolution
  • I provide patients, families & customers with an expected time frame for a response
  • I actively listen to questions and concerns
  • I escort patients, families and customers to their destination
  • I always exit from an elevator so that patients can have the elevator in privacy
  • I communicate to our patients, families & customers in a way that they can understand
  • I take immediate steps for positive resolution if patient, family & customer expectations are not met by using service recovery

These service standards are really just an extension of the golden rule; Treat others as you would want them to treat you – Always.

The service standards are beginning to take hold in the organization.  We see the difference in the interactions we have with our patients, and with each other. We hear it from members of the community. We see it in the marked improvements in our patient satisfaction scores. Are we finished? No, this is a journey to improve for our patients and our community, but it is a journey where we are making real progress. Our community deserves nothing less. Thank you for trusting us with your care!

By Darren Childs, Director, Quality Improvement Services, Rutland Regional Medical Center

How Are We Doing?

For the last year and a half, Rutland Regional has been working hard to change a part of our culture. We are working hard to have what we call Service Excellence because we want to provide our patients with the best experience possible.

You may have heard about some of the specific changes that are being made, including nurse leader rounding on patients, post-visit patient call backs, and the work we are doing to put in place our customer service standards.

In addition to these changes, it is important to talk about the role of patient satisfaction surveys. Rutland Regional utilizes a vendor (Press Ganey) to coordinate our patient satisfaction survey process.

Once each week, a secure data file is sent from Rutland Regional to the vendor, containing a list of patient names that received care from us the prior week, along with their addresses. A certain percent of these patients are randomly selected by the vendor to receive a patient satisfaction survey in the mail. There are different types of surveys that are mailed based upon what type of service the patient received, such as Emergency Department, Ambulatory Surgery, Inpatient, Outpatient, Medical Practice, Oncology and more.

When a patient receives the survey and completes it, the survey goes back to the vendor and is processed through their computer system. Within a few days, the survey results are then made available through a secure website for authorized employees at Rutland Regional to view.

This survey data is extremely valuable to Rutland Regional as it allows us to understand which aspects of our services our patients are very satisfied with, satisfied with, or not satisfied with. We are then able to focus our attention on improving the areas that have lower satisfaction scores and are important to our customers.

Additionally, the surveys ask patients to make comments on each of the questions, and these comments provide terrific insight to help us understand why a particular part of their experience was satisfying or unsatisfying to them.

Both the survey scores and the comments are regularly reviewed by Rutland Regional to understand if the changes that we are making are in fact improving patient satisfaction.

We are also able to compare our patient scores against other groups of hospitals around the country to help us understand how our survey scores compare. This again helps us understand where to focus our improvement efforts.

While we have many ways of collecting patient feedback, if you are a patient at Rutland Regional and happen to receive a survey invitation after your service, please take a few minutes to complete it to let us know how we are doing and know that your voice will be heard.

By Darren Childs, Director, Quality Improvement Services, Rutland Regional Medical Center

What is Service Recovery and Why Do We Use It?

At Rutland Regional, we always want to provide a great experience for everyone who walks through our doors. If we fall short of this goal, we use our Service Recovery program, which is a step-by-step process to help achieve a positive resolution with our patients, families, and customers to meet their expectations.

The aim of Service Recovery is to regain the trust of our patients and families, and to prevent issues from becoming worse. We want patients and families to let us know when they did not have a positive experience because it gives us the opportunity to correct a problem we did not know we had. We want patients and their families to know that bringing their concerns to us is worth their effort and that changes will be made as a result.

During Service Recovery training, Rutland Regional staff learn the importance of listening to each concern, situation, or event to the best of their ability and to remember the acronym LAST as a guide to help our patients.

L = Listen and give the patient and family full attention

A = Apologize for the experience

S = Solve the issue to the best of their ability

T = Thank the patient and family for bringing it to our attention

By training our staff to use these Service Recovery skills, and by empowering staff to take steps to correct the issues as they happen, patients and families will have a more immediate resolution. It is important that we learn from our shortcomings so that the same situation does not occur again for future patients. Service Recovery is one of the tools we use as we strive to provide every patient excellent care every time.

By Melissa Bartlett, Patient Relations, Rutland Regional Medical Center

Excellence in the Emergency Department: Great Care is 
No Accident

In today’s healthcare environment and especially for Vermonters, change is the only constant. We have seen changes in reimbursement, regulatory changes and economic changes that affect both our community and our hospital. As the external operating environment gets increasingly difficult, we understand the need to adapt to survive and thrive in the future. Emergency care, like other aspects of healthcare is in demand, with more patients than ever. We have changed the processes to ensure better clinical and quality outcomes for our patients.

At Rutland Regional, we have adapted better, are more disciplined, and have found more prescriptive ways to do things we already do. The first step was to focus on communication between key staff members; over the last year, adding Motorola DTR 550 portable radios, with ear piece and push to talk (PTT) feature for all Emergency Department clinical staff. Also, we included our housekeeper and volunteers for bed turnover and rounding. We trained the staff to promote the greatest use of the radios in day to day operations, moving patients from arrival to physician evaluation as quickly as possible.

With the use of the radios, we have changed the intake process from the traditional Triage room to immediate bedding. The immediate bedding process is coordinated by the professional Pivot or Triage nurse, who immediately greets the patient upon arrival. After a brief interaction, a radio call confirms the treatment location and the patient is escorted back. They are joined by a courteous member of the registration staff who completes demographic information and provides a written copy of the hospital’s privacy policy. Technicians monitor the radio and respond directly to complete EKGs, collect specimens and carry out physician orders. This process is followed until all treatment spaces are full.

The changes in the Emergency department are no accident. The staff and volunteers are dedicated, building a culture of excellence and accountability. Driven by passion for what they do every day, this team has adopted these new evidence-based practices and more impressively, our patient satisfaction survey scores have increased markedly. We have more important work to do on our journey to improve all aspects of the patient experience.

Thank you for choosing Rutland Regional Medical Center and trusting us with your care.

By Thomas M. Rounds BSN, RN, Emergency Department Director, Rutland Regional Medical Center

Leader Rounding on Employees Improves Patient Experience

You may have heard about how Rutland Regional Medical Center is improving our culture of Service Excellence by implementing specific Service Standards that are applied by all employees, or how we use Service Recovery measures to ensure that patient issues are resolved quickly and efficiently. If you have visited Rutland Regional in the past year, you can actually see and feel the positive change. Every patient is treated like a family member.

This cultural change did not happen by accident. We have embarked on an exciting Journey to Excellence to create a consistent feeling of hospitality in our community hospital. Every employee and new hire is put through extensive Service Excellence training to ensure that they understand how important customer service is to every patient and visitor. We have started using assessments during our hiring process to measure whether or not a candidate has a strong customer service focus as well as the skills and experience to do the job. Here at Rutland Regional Medical Center, we strive to hire new staff and train existing staff to uphold our high Service Standards and to treat every patient like a treasured family member.

At Rutland Regional, we believe that engaged employees will provide the best care to our patients. To that end, we have implemented frequent Leader Rounding on all employees. Every leader in our Hospital has been trained to consistently round on staff members approximately once a month and to ask a specific set of questions designed to help us provide our employees with the recognition, motivation and tools they need to do the best job possible. During Leader Rounding, every manager asks some variation of the following questions:

  1. How are you doing personally? How is your family? Leaders ask questions that show the employee that they care about them as a person, not just an employee.
  2. What’s working well? This question lets employees talk about their accomplishments.
  3. Do you have adequate tools and equipment to do your job?
  4. Are there any systems or processes that we could improve to help you do your job better?
  5. Is there anyone you would like us to recognize?

The combination of these five questions provides employees with a consistent opportunity to tell us what is working well and what opportunities we have to make improvements. It also allows us to recognize staff for doing a great job and encourages staff to recognize peers who provide superior service to patients and/or coworkers. 

Numerous studies have shown that employees who feel appreciated perform better, have lower turnover, and ultimately treat their customers/patients better! We have many examples of nurses asking us to recognize the housekeeper who keeps their patient rooms clean or clinical staff who recognize maintenance staff who keep the machines and facilities running. We have improved several processes and fixed many systems as a result of Leader Rounding on staff.

Each leader produces a Stop Light report after their rounding that shows employees the status of suggestions or issues that were brought up during Leader Rounding. Items listed in green are those that have been implemented or completed as a result of Leader Rounding. Items listed in yellow are considered work-in-progress and may take a bit longer to implement. The yellow color lets employees know that this issue is being addressed and is still on their leader’s radar. Items listed in red are those that cannot be implemented or completed at this time and the leader lists the reason why. The Stop Light report is a very visible indication of all that can be accomplished and addressed through Leader Rounding and is posted in a central location for all employees to see.

Leader rounding on staff is just another way that Rutland Regional Medical Center’s Journey to Excellence is improving the way we deliver care to both our patients and employees.

By Allison M. Wollen, Vice President of Human Resources, Rutland Regional Medical Center

What Is Service Recovery & Why Do We Use It?

At Rutland Regional, we always want to provide a great experience for everyone who walks through our doors. If we fall short of this goal, we use our Service Recovery program, which is a step-by-step process to help achieve a positive resolution with our patients, families, and customers to meet their expectations.

The aim of Service Recovery is to regain the trust of our patients and families, and to prevent issues from becoming worse. We want patients and families to let us know when they did not have a positive experience because it gives us the opportunity to correct a problem we did not know we had. We want patients and their families to know that bringing their concerns to us is worth their effort and that changes will be made as a result.

During Service Recovery training, Rutland Regional staff learn the importance of listening to each concern, situation, or event to the best of their ability and to remember the acronym LAST as a guide to help our patients.

L = Listen and give the patient and family full attention

A = Apologize for the experience

S = Solve the issue to the best of their ability

T = Thank the patient and family for bringing it to our attention

By training our staff to use these Service Recovery skills, and by empowering staff to take steps to correct the issues as they happen, patients and families will have a more immediate resolution. It is important that we learn from our shortcomings so that the same situation does not occur again for future patients. Service Recovery is one of the tools we use as we strive to provide every patient excellent care every time.

By Melissa Bartlett, Patient Relations, Rutland Regional Medical Center


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Rutland Regional Medical Center
160 Allen Street
Rutland, VT 05701
802.775.7111

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