Turning the patient experience into greater perspective

After 35 years as a Carle patient, Renae Strawbridge can't help but reflect upon her experiences.

More often than not, the first thing she recalls is the moment she learned she had breast cancer 15 years ago. As a survivor of the disease, she credits physicians and staff. They, she believes, helped her overcome the challenges clinically and emotionally.

Then she recalls the chronic ear infections that took her daughter in to the doctor’s office time and again. Staff and providers there never lost patience and treated the family well each time.

Now, as a Primary Care patient for Christopher Nelson, MD, in Mahomet, she enjoys the personal feeling of the smaller location.

Renae Strawbridge selfieFor the past year, though, Strawbridge hasn’t only reflected upon her experiences here. She’s acted upon them.

As part of Carle’s Patient and Family Advisory Council she discusses topics across Carle’s health system with others like her. The experience encouraged her to also join the patient and family advisory council in Mahomet.

Her reason for participating in each is simple.

“What appeals the most to me is that my participation ensures at least one patient voice is being heard,” Strawbridge said.

Carle refocused and expanded this service which ensures  Strawbridge won't be the only patient voice heard.

In total, Carle offers 10 patient and family councils. About 80 advisers offer insight.

"I appreciate that Carle leaders want to improve the patient experience by involving our perspective,” Strawbridge said.

On a quarterly basis, Carle’s Anastasia Wilczynski learns how efforts in this area compare to facilities across the state through the Illinois Hospital Association.

“I’ve seen firsthand that we have established our councils well in a short amount of time,” Wilczynski said. “First, credit goes to our advisers, who take time out of their lives and provide the type of feedback we’re looking for. Also, Carle leadership matches their dedication by viewing this as Carle’s charge and their mission.”

So far, the councils engaged in vibrant discussion and action on a several topics, including:

  • Kiosk usage for patient check-in
  • After-visit summaries
  • Medication lists
  • Patient education materials

Appropriate Carle leaders review the feedback with staff, prompting some alterations to policy and procedure. In other instances, Carle leaders explain why something can’t change.

In Mahomet, Strawbridge said ambulatory care experience coach Kena Hahn consistently displays this effort.

“Kena is responsive, truly listens to what we say and doesn’t let items languish,” Strawbridge said. “From the beginning, my excitement about the council grew because her involvement set the right tone.

“I knew that whatever idea we brought forth would receive the respect it deserved.”

Conversely, Hahn and Wilczynski both understand it’s not only the patients who benefit.

“In general, our clinicians love when patients and families are more involved,” Hahn said. “That’s because we at Carle never want to assume that we know what the patient is thinking. The advisers are thirsty for knowledge and motivated by helping their community.

“We’re lucky to have groups of patients and family members so engaged.”

If you or someone you know is interested in being part of a patient and family advisory council, please call 217-383-4122.