Patient Relations Plus

Trish Lospinuso’s role at Sunnybrook received a makeover in November 2011.  The creation of the Office of the Patient Experience shifted her focus from largely reactive responses to help improve service and satisfaction for the hospital’s patients and their families, to proactive action to ensure positive experiences.

“Now we’re engaged in improving the patient experience at the point of service versus reacting to episodes of poor patient experiences,” explains Trish, a Patient Experience Advisor at Sunnybrook.  “It’s a complete shift in how we approach what we do here.”

Trish has coined the term “Patient Relations Plus” to describe the aim of Sunnybrook’s Office of the Patient Experience, which supports the hospital’s clinical and non-clinical teams in their work with patients, their families and all visitors to ensure the experience with the hospital leads to the best outcomes possible.

The office is staffed with a team of expert coaches and advisors who provide guidance on interpersonal communication, conflict management and health system navigation.  The guiding principle is that every Sunnybrook employee has the opportunity to influence each patient’s experience regardless of whether they provide direct or indirect care to patients.

Coaching sessions are offered across the organization to enhance communication and customer service skills particularly in challenging situations.  “Sometimes people simply don’t know what they can and can’t do to improve the experience.  We offer tips and scenarios to staff from all areas, for example instead of asking ‘What’s your problem?’ you could inquire “Please tell me what happened?’”

The Office of the Patient Experience builds on the success of the Sunnybrook Moments program, a customer service program promoting positive experiences between staff and customers of the hospital by concentrating on excelling in the “Four C’s” which are compassion, communication, consideration and comfort.  “Having the 4 Cs is very helpful as we can always link back to them and they are useful themes when staff are looking at different situations,” says Trish.

Volunteer ambassadors in inpatient units at Sunnybrook also help lead to early intervention of potential conflict.  These specially-trained volunteers not only provide useful information for patients and families, such as information on parking and where to eat, but also help flag problems that may be starting.  “One of the first questions that volunteers ask patients and families in the unit is: ‘How are things going?’  This simple question can lead to early intervention if something isn’t going well. We have the chance to go up to the unit and help facilitate a resolution to the situation.”

Feedback from staff and from patients and families is overwhelmingly positive on the volunteers.  Families appreciate the additional support and help they can provide in connecting to resources in the hospital and the larger healthcare system.

The Office of the Patient Experience also plays an important role in acknowledging the excellent care that patients receive at Sunnybrook.  When a compliment is received about a staff member, clinical trainee or physician, a Sunnybrook Moment Certificate of Excellence is prepared and signed by the President and Chief Executive Officer and presented to the staff member by one of the hospital’s Senior Leadership Team.

Trish says that patients are impressed by the hospital’s reaction to excellent customer service, “We often hear that it’s nice to know we jump through hoops when we hear something positive, not just something negative.”