Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We Are Indeed Better Together

I am once again humbled and in awe of what we as “public hospitals” do.

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) is a county hospital, and we hear repeatedly from those we serve that they are surprised by the excellent and compassionate care they receive here.

This myth that public hospitals are places of last resort has once again been debunked, this time by the Better Together campaign, which was launched Tuesday by the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC). We are honored to be one of only 12 hospitals recognized nationwide by IPFCC for supporting families as partners in care by eliminating restrictive visiting hours.           

IPFCC’s campaign calls on all hospitals to welcome families 24 hours a day and to transform their approach to care so that patients’ families and loved ones are included in care and decision-making, based on patient preferences.
We implemented a “welcoming” policy nine months ago, eliminating restrictive visiting policies and the concept of "visitors" at CCRMC. One experience that contributed to CCRMC’s decision to change was when a young boy wasn’t allowed to be in our ICU with his grandfather, who had raised him, because it was after visiting hours. The grandfather passed away and the two lost the chance to say goodbye.

That incident really hit home for me and our entire staff. We knew we could do better. Our old policies treated family members like visitors, until we realized that we are the visitors in people’s lives, not the other way around. This was a huge cultural shift, and one that the staff here was courageous enough, bold enough and caring enough to undertake.

Since then, we’ve had more than 5,000 people come after hours to be with their loved ones. Tracking the data is an important part of assessing success and we’re gathering input and feedback from staff and patients and their families. See my previous blog post here for more information.

Simply being open 24/7 isn’t enough. There is a difference between a 24/7 visitation policy and a welcoming policy. We as hospitals need to be truly welcoming places where families and loved ones are recognized and included as essential to patient care. It’s also not up to us to define family- patients have that right and we are proud to also be recognized as a "Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality" by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

We know family and loved-one presence supports safe and high quality care. You can read more about this on the IPFCC website:
It’s been a wonderful experience working on the Better Together campaign with IPFCC and their President and CEO Beverley Johnson. They’ve produced some fabulous videos found here that highlight CCRMC staff, patients and partners.  It’s an excellent tribute to all the staff – here at CCRMC and Health Centers, Contra Costa Health Services, and the Sheriff's Office - who made possible this shift in culture to reflect our commitment to working with patients and family partners to provide the care that those we serve want and deserve.

To make this work, it was important to sit down with staff and listen to their concerns about changing visiting policies. We brought together everyone who was involved, from doctors, nurses, security personnel, receptionists and other staff to patients and their families and loved ones, to lead the effort.

While our policy welcomes families 24/7, that doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries. We always consider safety and our patients’ preferences in every situation, but now having a family member or loved one by the bedside is the norm. It’s part of our culture of excellence. And if that’s what “public” means, we wear that badge proudly.

More very soon,