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How to creatively meet patient needs by applying Robust Process Improvement® Principles to create a Patient Ambassador Program

from the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare

High reliability health care is a system that provides consistent excellence in quality and safety across all services and settings maintained over periods of time. This standard – along with Robust Process Improvement® (RPI®), a blended performance improvement model that incorporates Lean, Six Sigma and formal change management – represents an invaluable toolbox for countless improvement goals.

Catholic Health used this robust toolbox when confronted with a surge of patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that overworked and reduced staff were now playing the role of family communicator as visitor access was restricted, Catholic Health Services sought to develop a solution that would continue to meet family needs without adding to front-line caregiver responsibilities.

The team quickly created a Patient Experience Ambassador Program. This unique program identified and trained employees – who would have otherwise been furloughed due to the necessary pause in elective services – to serve as liaisons between COVID-19 patients and their families.
Catholic Health trained 24 ambassadors at two hospitals, introducing training in approaches and technologies that would help patients see their families and, in some cases, celebrate loved ones and welcome new babies into the world. As the pandemic raged on, these virtual visits were sometimes a family’s last conversation – reinforcing the critical need to fill this role for patients.

The Patient Experience Ambassador Program was a tremendous benefit to staff and patients, facilitating more than 2,500 connections to families during a stressful time.

As organizations look to implement a Patient Experience Ambassador Program, or similar programs, they should consider:

  • Setting a foundation early: Catholic Health has long valued improvement work, training classes of employees each year in RPI principles to ensure the highest levels of quality. Having a common improvement language and training in place will enable organizations to move quickly when an unexpected situation – like a pandemic – begins. Organizations that prioritize improvement work will find they have the structure to be nimble and the room to flex and adapt to unexpected circumstances. If this foundation does not yet exist, the Center for Transforming Healthcare can help you start here.
  • Employee empowerment: Employees who feel empowered and valued are key drivers in the success of health care systems. For successful change to occur, employees must know they play a role in improving the culture of an organization and the care that patients receive. The role of a patient experience ambassador, or liaison, relies on employees communicating effectively and compassionately between families and patients. A strong culture of empowerment reinforces the effectiveness of this role.
  • Understanding the role of RPI: Implementing a patient ambassador program requires organizations to equip staff with resources and knowledge to succeed through any challenge. Robust Process Improvement helps employees manage change and operate with efficiency, with an emphasis on quality solutions. This advanced training that any organization can implement gives staff the framework and tools to problem-solve any issue – and the ability to nimbly adjust as circumstances change.

Organizations that understand and incorporate these practices will find more success as they implement patient ambassador programs internally – or undertake other improvement initiatives to boost quality and safety. RPI provides the tools and framework for success through any challenge, helping equip teams and create a safer environment for all.

Learn more about how Robust Process Improvement can help your organization create a framework for success.