No one understands the cancer experience like patients and their families, so when City of Hope’s chief medical officer wanted input on proposed changes to patient and family services, she went straight to the experts.
What Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P., recently heard from City of Hope’s Patient and Family Advisory Council both surprised and enlightened her — just as she had hoped.
|Alexandra Levine, at head of table, explains hospital plans to members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council. (Photo by p.cunningham)|
“Simply by telling me your experiences, that means everything,” Levine told the group.
Bill Cloer, father of a City of Hope pediatric patient, serves as chair of the advisory council, which is sponsored by the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “Using our knowledge and personal experiences to elevate medical care and support services for other patients and their families is the council’s mission,” he explained.
Levine met with Cloer and the 23-member group, which provides City of Hope with input from the perspective of patients and their families, to discuss changes under way in the medical center. The changes aim to improve the overall care experience of patients and their families.
“Our biggest problem is that we grew very fast,” Levine told group members, and that resulted in strained facilities and processes for patients. As the group members noted, that means that patients sometimes have no room to sit in certain waiting areas, or they may experience prolonged waits.
But Levine said hospital administrators have launched initiatives to improve the patient experience.
“We have all kinds of plans to deal with capacity issues,” she said. With an eye to long-term enhancements, consultants currently are studying how to create a new dedicated outpatient facility at City of Hope in the future.
In the short term, administrators already have changed processes and enlarged space and personnel for registration. They opened up the registration area in the Main Medical Building to provide more waiting room, and improvements in the process have cut the average waiting time in registration from 45 minutes to 20 minutes, she said. In addition, patients who do not require either X-rays or blood draws can register directly within the Geri & Richard Brawerman Ambulatory Care Center clinic.
The City of Hope Information System (CIS), which goes live on Aug. 1, also will expedite the registration process.
In addition, she told the council, a new, enlarged phlebotomy area will reduce waiting time for blood tests.
She also touched on a topic that struck a particular chord with some council members: parking. One council member noted that on some days, patients must wait in lines to try to find a parking space, with little success.
Levine described long-term plans for a parking structure. In the short term, she said, City of Hope has created additional parking areas away from the medical center that may be accessed with a tram service. In addition, administrators hope that scheduling efficiencies may spread patient loads more evenly throughout the week.
“Do you think these changes will actually increase capacity here?” asked council member Dale Shartsis.
Levine said yes, and added that she expects City of Hope to draw 5 to 6 percent more patients next year. “We are not freezing anything here — we are growing,” she said. “We are adding new doctor positions and other personnel.”
Levine carefully took notes as patients discussed other challenges. “Thank you so much for telling me about your experiences,” she said. “It’s incredibly valuable to hear directly from you.”
The Patient and Family Advisory Council, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in May, is seeking City of Hope patients and family members to help create the best patient-care systems, programs and support services in the world. For more information, please contact Annette Mercurio, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., director of programs for the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, at ext. 64888.