In March 2020, when COVID-19 patient volume began to surge in New Jersey, Englewood Health, like many hospitals, restricted visitors as a precautionary infection control measure. Throughout the pandemic, Englewood’s patient and family engagement team has met challenges with creativity and resolve by staying focused on patients and their families.
Daily Rounding Staying in Contact with Patients and Families
Our patient and family engagement (PFE) team knew it was a needed and valued resource for patients, families, and clinical staff. We were determined to serve each patient through intention, collaboration, and connection.
Without the ability to make in-person contact, our PFE team conducted daily calls to every admitted patient in the hospital – sometimes multiple calls – to maintain strong communication. Our team provided a warm and comforting voice and, more important, a listening ear to help resolve any concerns. Using the Vocera Rounds tool, we created a standardized script for initiating conversation. This helped us to establish more information about the patient and allowed the PFE team to track and reference shared information for follow up.
An effective example of this process involved our most vulnerable patient population – our ICU patients – most of whom were on ventilators. We called families daily to provide an additional opportunity to share information, receive requests, and provide feedback. We further explained ICU care, to familiarize them with what to expect and how best to communicate with their loved one’s medical team. We supportively asked how they themselves were doing and if they had any questions. We also asked the family the following questions about the patient:
Tracking the Migrating Patient Could There Be a Better Way?
Vocera customer service manager Jo Norris, RN, BSN, was willing to innovate with our PFE and IT teams to create a solution to help us more quickly connect with patients and their families. By linking to our electronic medical record system, Epic, and including hospital location and patient and family contact information, our IT department was able to collaborate with Vocera to build an even better program. This program tracked a patient’s location within the Vocera system, allowing the PFE team to know a patient’s location and correct hospital phone number (extension) in real time; it also gave the team access to previously documented communications with patient and family.
The real-time access to contact information and communications history allowed the team to operate more effectively and efficiently. With this added tool, we were also able to enlist nonclinical staff from other hospital areas, extending the patient and family engagement rounding team. Together, we called each hospitalized patient, and their family, every day.
An Expanded Team of Rounders Developed Overnight by Technology Technology Can Be Accessed from Anywhere
The expanded team – many of whom work at Englewood Health’s outpatient sites and Englewood Health Physician Network locations – were trained in the Vocera application by Jo Norris through virtual online training sessions and were conducting outreach the same day.
We became an interdisciplinary team of 22 Englewood Health staff who leaned on one another and relied on the Vocera Rounds mobile technology, which could be accessed from anywhere through an online application. For more than four months, team members called their roster of patients and families daily. These meaningful conversations helped Englewood Health address patient needs, conduct service recovery, and celebrate our staff in real time – all of which has had a direct impact on improving the patient experience during a pandemic and beyond.