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The Patient Experience During COVID-19 Pandemic

Lisa Paulo, RN, discusses the patient experience during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Patient Experience During COVID-19 Pandemic
Lisa Paulo, RN
Lisa Paulo, RN is the Chief Administrative Office/Patient Experience at SVMHS.

Scott Webb: The patient experience is important to the staff of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Perhaps never more so than right now during COVID-19. Joining me today to discuss how committed SVMH is to listening to patients and meeting their needs is registered nurse Lisa Paulo. This is Ask the Experts, a Podcast from Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. I'm Scott Webb. So Lisa, thanks so much for joining me today. Let's talk about the patient experience. What exactly is the patient experience?

Lisa Paulo: When we think about patient experience, some traditionally think of patient experiences as making the patient happy or satisfaction, and really patient experience is about creating an environment in which our patients feel respected and valued and as an individual, so that we can create a healthy environment for them to heal in. And that's so important because we're giving them so much information during their stay to help them be successful throughout their visit, but also upon discharge. And so patient experience looks at all the factors that influence those things around communication, around a healing environment and around education to ensure that when patients go home they're the best version of themselves that they can be. So we look at, you know, the whole concept around treating the person as an individual and what their preferences are. Looking at the environment from a cleanliness, from a quiet environment. Looking at how we communicate with one another so that they're feeling like they're a part of the conversation and engaged in that and understanding what we're saying. Developing education materials and providing it frequently and in bite sizes so that they can understand what it is we're saying. Giving them information about their medications, about their discharge instructions. So again, when they go home they understand what the expectations are to ensure the best health they can once they leave the hospital.

Host: That sounds really comprehensive and kind of great. So who makes up the patient experience team and what exactly are the roles?

Lisa Paulo: So patient experience is organizational wide. So everyone has a role in patient experience. We do have a dedicated group that helps kind of facilitate performance improvement initiatives to actually be going and visiting patients. So we have a team of individuals that will go and do what we call welcome rounds. So they introduce themselves and kind of address any questions that the patient might have, but also address any concerns that they might be experiencing at the time. And then we help to bridge those gaps, whatever is identified in that conversation. And then we also look at how do we improve the environment. So something as simple as quiet at night, for example. How do we help our staff and our patients have an environment in which it's quiet? So looking at things as simple as the wheels on carts or the clacking sounds that happen on some of the carts that we open and close. So we look at opportunities and then we identify how to implement change to bridge those gaps in that process. And then we also have a committee that comes together. They're representative of the staff, our physician leaders, our executive team, and then some of our key leaders in the organization that help influence change, and they meet on a regular basis to bring issues forward and bring ideas forward to continue to improve these processes all in the end game of creating this better environment for our patients throughout their visit here at the hospital.

Host: Great to know that everybody takes ownership over this, but there is a dedicated team and that you guys are worrying about the little things, the minutiae like sure. Squeaky wheels would keep people awake at night. That's really cool. So let's talk about the diversity of the team. We know that the community itself is diverse, so does the team reflect that?

Lisa Paulo: Absolutely. All of our individuals that do rounds with patients, they are all bilingual. So that is a critical part of our program is being able to provide individuals who not only speak the language, but also understand the cultural differences. In addition to that, we also have as an organization resources available to support conversations for individuals like myself that aren't bilingual. I have access to translation services on my phone actually that I can pull up at any time and pull a little screenshot of a translator on the phone with me visually, that the patient can also see at the same time and engage in any conversation with that patient that needs to be had. So we do have a team that's bilingual. However, we also have these phenomenal resources across the organization to everyone's access so that they can ensure these conversations happen and meet the needs, whether they're Spanish speaking, Vietnamese speaking or whatever the diversity that we experienced in the organization

Host: Isn't technology great. I mean, just think about, you know, a time when you didn't have a little translator in your pocket. That's so cool.

Lisa Paulo: Yeah. The awesome thing about that is that's an example of something that the patient experience steering committee identified as a need. We'd always had translators, a few on each unit on like these mobile carts, but this transition to have the access to this service on our cell phones so that any one person could use it at any time was something the team brought forward. And then leadership team supported that access. So it was a really good outcome for our patients and our staff.

Host: Definitely. And I'm sure that the patients appreciate that. So let's focus, you know, we're talking today about the patient experience and we know right now during COVID-19 that anxiety can be high and there's, you know, legitimate concern for the virus. So how are you sort of ramping things up or what are you doing differently right now? In terms of the patient experience due to COVID-19.

Lisa Paulo: Yeah. So you're right, very difficult with now the visitor restrictions that are in place. It's very rare that visitors are allowed into the hospital. And so you have a lot of patients who are going through surgery or they've come through the emergency department and now they're maybe going to surgery or they're being admitted and their family members aren't able to come. And that's very difficult for both the family and the patients. So our team continues to be a support in that process along with the staff being very compassionate and understanding the challenges of that. The organization made an investment in getting iPads so that we could it's not FaceTime, it's a little different solution, but so that we could video chat and connect families and patients together. We just implemented that in this last week and we're trialing those out on the floors. And so far the feedback has been just phenomenal. It seems to bridge the gap significantly for the patient to be able to see their family member and vice versa and have a conversation or just versus just being able to speak by phone.

Host: That is really neat. It's so amazing how the entire medical system, but especially, you know, locally at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, how everybody is just sort of pivoted and risen to the occasion. So when we think about the community and everything, we want them to know, maybe just hear it in your own words. The hospital right now, despite COVID-19 and including SVMH is the safest place to be. Right? Whether you think you have COVID or it's an emergent condition, heart attack, stroke, whatever it might be. We want people to go to the hospital. That's where the Doctors are, right? That's where the medicine is. Let me hear it in your own words, Lisa.

Lisa Paulo: Absolutely. I think that that is a message we are trying to really reinforce with everyone is that we know that individuals are afraid to come to the hospital. We've had patients and community members say that to us. They're putting off visiting their Doctor's offices or putting off coming into the emergency department or being seen because they're concerned of contracting the virus. And the reality is our hospital is a very safe environment. We have more precautions in place to ensure people's safety. And if someone needs that treatment, that we're here to provide that care for them and we will then support them through that process while they're here to ensure that they're connected back to their family as well.

Host: And I know having done a few of these for SVMH, I know that you guys are screening and testing outside the hospital. You've got these amazing tents and negative pressure and you guys are just, I'm always in awe when I talk to somebody from Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and the entire Salinas Healthcare System. It just how on point and how on your game you are and how everybody there seems to be working together ultimately to support each other of course. But really for the patients, right?

Lisa Paulo: Everyone that comes into the hospital, we screen everybody that comes in and we have everyone wearing masks. So you have multiple layers protection for both the employees, the patients, the physicians, any individuals that need to come into the hospital system. Everyone. So you're absolutely right. I think the organization is doing phenomenal work to try to protect everybody involved in creating an environment where we can take care of people who need to be taken care of.

Host: And lastly, today, Lisa, I want to end on a really positive note. I heard this story anecdotally about a patient at the hospital and a family member outside. And I want you to tell that story to everybody about how the hospital was able to sort of bring them together.

Lisa Paulo: On one of our units. We are able to, it's on the first floor and there's glass windows on the unit and they were able to bring a family member on the outside of the hospital standing, looking through this full glass window and bring the patient in the bed out to this glass window. And they were able to communicate through the window to the point of even blowing kisses to one another. And it was very touching for the patient and the family member, but also for our staff. So they are trying everything they can to try to keep family members and patients connected together.

Host: That is such an amazing story and I can only imagine we can all put ourselves in that position. Even if you're a, you know, a medical professional, a provider, you know, we've all been to the Doctor, we've all been to the hospital. We all know that despite everything everybody does, it can be a little scary and to bring them together and blowing kisses. Just amazing. Thanks again, Lisa. To get regular updates and information about COVID-19 visit And we hope you found this podcast to be helpful and informative. This is Ask the Experts, a podcast from Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. I'm Scott Webb. Stay well, and we'll talk again next time.