mguh-international-2_webHundreds of hours of grueling cancer treatment. Months of hospitalization for a son. The heart wrenching loss of a parent.  Three individuals. Three families who represent thousands of personal and—sometimes painful–hospital experiences. As PFACQS members, Amber Ostrup, Sandra Kaus and Steven Coffee are hoping to give voice to their collective concerns and perspectives.

They and the other council members had a unique opportunity to share their hospital journeys and play a critical role in the design of a new patient care tower slated to open in 2020.   Representatives of the architectural firm visited the council and listened to member’s personal stories—then put them through a “mapping experience” exercise that proved eye opening for everyone.

Mapping the Emergency Experience

“The architects wanted to ensure that they had patient and family feedback during the design process,” says Nicole Duncan, assistant vice president of advocacy and international services. ”The pavilion will house the ED, ICU and surgery—areas that can pose real issues for patients and caregivers.”

During the mapping experience, the council members were divided into small groups and given two scenarios to ponder: Envision moment by moment what patients experience when they enter the emergency department either as a walk-in or by ambulance.

“What we discovered was the large effect small things have on the quality of the patient experience,” says Kaus.  “The distance from the garage to the ED, the lack of patient privacy, and access to food during a long wait for care—even not having a phone charger handy— create stress during an already stressful time,” she says.  “The exercise allowed us to say ‘what if,’ and ‘what’s best for customers.’ There were some real light bulb moments.”

“It’s a chance to identify some of the gaps in service that the hospital may not know it has,” says Coffee, whose son was just two months old when he had a liver transplant at MedStar Georgetown. “They are saying ‘we want to hear your story, we want to see things as you see them.  And they are asking ‘what would be your ideal hospital experience.’  We also realize that the clinicians have their own stories too, and that we are all part of the health care team.”

The group talked about everything from confusing discharge orders and long transfers between the ED and patient units—to dark and scary garages.  “We heard from many perspectives and no ideas were discounted,’ says Ostrup.

Respect and Value

“The council is a diverse group—finance people, lawyers, clinicians, parents, patients—and this spectrum of people is very valuable in everything we do,” says Coffee. “The whole experience is near and dear to me. I speak for my son, but also for increasing an understanding of what makes quality care. It’s the human side of medicine that recognizes in health care ‘you respect and value my opinion as much as I value your advice.’”

The mapping experience is just the beginning of a process the architects are implementing before the brick and mortar of the new patient care building are set, explains Duncan. “They will continue to solicit the council’s input, and they are not only embedding their ideas into the design, but we are also incorporating them now into existing space.”