Massages, room service, aromatherapy.
This isn’t a spa, or a fancy hotel. This is the new Columbia Memorial Hospital – same hospital, new heart.
“We want people to have the experience of Nordstrom,” CMH board member Dave Phillips said, “or the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”
“This is about you,” said CMH Chief Executive Officer Erik Thorsen.
Columbia Memorial Hospital has received a designation from Planetree, an organization started by a woman who had a bad experience in a hospital. Her medical care was fine, but her personal needs were not met.
At the end of the day, she felt she was just a patient, just a number, and not a person. She started an organization with 10 components that may change the face of health care worldwide.
Planetree’s components include treating patients in a caring environment with dignity, readily sharing medical information and welcoming involvement of family members in a patient’s care. They address the importance of the human touch, while making hospitals more welcoming in “feel” and appearance. The patient’s spirituality is a core value, quality food is a priority, and the hospital’s activities and entertainment are highlighted.
Some 230 hospitals have adopted the model in the U.S., but few have its official designation as a Planetree hospital.
Now, CMH is one of 20 in the U.S. to receive the official designation. It is something the hospital has worked toward for 13 years.
“This is a philosophy, a way of life,” said CMH Marketing Manager Paul Mitchell. “It’s not what we are, it’s who we are.”
To celebrate Aug. 8, the hospital’s 500 staff members were treated to a beach-themed party and lunchtime barbecue to mark achieving the designation.
Adherents to the concept say that staying in the hospital can be a scary or uncomfortable experience. But with a hospital that has accepted and adopted the Planetree model, it can mean several things to make a patient’s stay better.
“Say you don’t normally wake up until 9 a.m.,” Mitchell explained. “Well, then we won’t come in and wake you up until 9 a.m. Doctors and nurses are very methodical. They make their rounds at 6 a.m. That’s just the schedule, and the way things were done. But not any more.
“Everyone talks about hospital food. Here, you can order room service for you and your care partner. … And just because your leg is broken doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to eat the foods that you like. We don’t have visiting hours, there are no barriers on people seeing you.
“We encourage people to be with you, and if you don’t have anyone, we have volunteers or hospital staff that will come be with you. We have a policy that nobody dies alone.
“We also have pet therapy dogs. Or if you are staying in the hospital and you want your pet their with you, that’s allowed.
“It’s not about making sure the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted, it’s about the patient and ‘what can I do for you?’ Because it’s all about you. At the end of the day, you’re the reason we’re all here.”
If patients want to see their hospital chart and what doctors and nurses have written about them, that is allowed under the Planetree model. Staff will show them and explain what is written – and why. Patients are also able to make notations in their chart and participate in the process.
The Planetree philosophy was introduced to the Columbia Memorial Hospital staff 13 years ago, after a national meeting for hospital administrators, physicians and board members in Hawaii.
Phillips is the past immediate president of the CMH board of trustees and a board member for the last 30 years. He flew back to Astoria with a new mission.
“We were on the big island of Hawaii and we decided to take a tour of the North Hawaii Hospital,” Phillips explained. “We were taken aback. It was not a Planetree hospital, it was a Seventh-Day Adventist hospital, but it had all of the elements of Planetree. When you walked into that hospital, you did not see the typical entrance to a hospital. You saw a beautiful setting of aquariums, tropical plants, and the odor was fresh baked bread.
“Everywhere you went in that hospital, it smelled like someone was baking bread. When I was young, when you went into a hospital, it was (medicinal) alcohol you smelled.”
The board discussed this on their return, and started to make a shift towards patient focus, adopting the Planetree philosophy. It’s $10,000 per year for Planetree’s consulting services and resources in becoming Planetree affiliates, according to Thorsen.
“We saw this and thought this is something that would be great for our hospital,” Phillips said. “So we started the journey. The challenge in the journey was that some of the staff had the reaction that, ‘You mean the care we’re giving here is not good enough? We’re not doing a good job?’ And that was not the case at all.
“It was, ‘We might do things differently that would enhance the healing process for patients to make their experience as enjoyable as you can make it, given the fact that you’re in a hospital.’”
Now, it’s not about treating appendicitis, Dr. Dave Leibel said, it’s about treating the patient with appendicitis. (See sidebar.)
“I’ll give you an example of my wife. She loves to go to Nordstrom, she’s treated like a queen,” Phillips said of the VIP treatment. He also mentioned the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. “You stay in a room, they know you by name, they smile at you, greet you. That’s a lot different experience than going to Motel 6. We’re very excited, we’re very proud as a board.”
Achieving the Planetree designation involved more than a decade of work. The hospital had adopted the philosophy 13 years ago, but achieving designation meant higher than national average ratings from patient post-care phone surveys. The questions include “Would you recommend this hospital?” If CMH doesn’t get at least a 9 out of 10 rating on that question, it doesn’t count towards designation.
In the last three years, Mitchell said the hospital board made it a goal to achieve the designation, which meant passing the ratings at high levels plus four days of examinations by a Planetree committee. Nine months ago, Planetree officials visited CMH and reported there were five deficiencies the hospital had to correct to achieve designation.
Last month, they reported those five areas were improved enough to earn the status.
To maintain the status, Planetree hospitals are subject to another review every three years. Hospitals must maintain their designation or lose it.
For CMH’s chief executive, the process involves juggling priorities.
“Health care has got this thing out there called ‘triple aim.’ It’s high quality, good patient satisfaction, at a lower cost. That’s what the industry is trying to move towards,” Thorsen said.
“In the future, they’re talking about tying actual reimbursement to hospitals based on how well you achieve that triple aim. So patient satisfaction is going to be a component – a large component – of how a hospital is reimbursed as health care continues to transform.
“Planetree … sets us up to succeed under that triple aim; a great experience for patients, measurable quality standards benchmarked against other comparable hospitals so we can really tell how we’re doing from a quality of care perspective, and then trying to bring costs down – that’s every facility’s challenge. It’s hard to do.”
Patient satisfaction is a challenge.
“You can walk into any hospital and get room service, but can you walk into any hospital and bring your pet?” Thorsen said. “Can you walk into any hospital and get a massage offered to you while you’re an inpatient? Do you have an environment that’s different than a very sterile, white walls, white floors, more healing type of environment?”
CMH is not alone in adopting Planetree methods. The Veterans system is looking to incorporate Planetree in all of its hospitals, Thorsen said.
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.