I spent much of today at a hospital south of Atlanta helping my brother with some minor outpatient surgery. That's a fancy way of saying I drove him there and drove him home.
However there's no need for secrecy. The hospital was Piedmont Fayette Hospital, which is part of Piedmont Healthcare, located in Fayetteville, GA -- say 25 miles south of Atlanta. I mention the hospital by name because I found the experience to be remarkably good, and I'd like to explain why here on this 28th day of February.
- "Keeping Patients Informed" - Piedmont has taken its branding and mission statements seriously. The walls of this hospital were covered with reminders of what Piedmont stands for, including its mission statement to be one of the top hospitals in the U.S. by the year 2020. In the outpatient wing of the hospital, the walls contained multiple reminders that Piedmont is dedicated to keeping patients informed. ("The perfect balance between health and care," the signs say.) They did well too. Registration aimed us to the Outpatient check in, where the retired volunteers there were kind and generous and explained what to expect and when to expect it. (We were early, and they politely reminded us of that, suggesting we try out the Chick Fila or cafeteria downstairs, or else just take a seat.) That sign impressed me, because it supported what I experienced, instead of contradicted it.
- MediPass beepers - Piedmont uses MediPass beepers to notify the family of a patient at any time, anywhere in the hospital, if there's an issue, if a doctor needs to see you, or if there's something else requiring attention. The odd device is about the size of a remote for a television, but it's light and easy to stick in your pocket. And that beeper goes off quickly and lights up and vibrates, all at the same time, and by the time you look up, the folks at the desk are smiling at you and saying, "Mr. Williams?" Again, these little gadgets served as personal touches that are nice to receive because they are thoughtful.
- Doctor explanations - Each time a doctor completed a minor procedure, he came to the waiting room and in a quiet voice, explained to the family member(s) there how the procedure had gone, how their loved one was doing, when they could expect them in recovery. I watched a half dozen doctors come out many times each over the course of 5 or 6 hours, and they seemed to be unfailingly polite and willing to explain what had just taken place. The service was quite good.
- Cheer Cart - Shortly after lunch time, another retired volunteer came by with what he called a "cheer cart." It was a small cart with snacks, candy bars, chips, bottled water. He offered the snacks to anyone who came by, and so I said, yes I'll take a bottle of water. He brought me one and told me it was a dollar. I was not sure if the cheer on the cart was free, but a cold bottle of water is worth a buck to me, so I paid up. Then he moved off toward others.
- Free Coffee - The hospital maintained 3 or 4 kinds of fresh coffee just off the outpatient desk, free to all. Another nice touch.
So what was missing? There was not an electronic medical record in sight. The fanciest piece of technology was that MediPass beeper, which is not exactly an iPad. When I went back with my brother to get his clothes, there were a number of large whiteboards with patient information on them, and there were traditional paper files and folders visible at each patient room.
Since it's common knowledge in Atlanta in healthcare circles that Piedmont is going to Epic for its EMR needs, I found it very interesting to watch the care and attention to detail and wonder how different it might be, if at all, with an EMR -- at least if you judge this based on the care received rather than the documentation available to you later.
This is not the first time I've come into a hospital recently and encountered virtually no electronic health or medical records, and to Piedmont's credit, the hospital methodically did what it set out to do. They kept the patients informed, and they were professional and courteous -- case in point, one of the staff who greeted each patient on the way back to surgery always introduced herself with a smile and the words, "Hello my name is Angel." Who doesn't want an Angel before surgery?
Hats off to Piedmont Fayette Hospital specifically, and Piedmont Healthcare in general, for providing what to me was good, old-fashioned, kind and courteous care. It is refreshing to leave a hospital being able to say, that was excellent service.
Yet it was. Does Piedmont strike the perfect balance between health and care? I may not have enough deep experience there, fortunately, to know, but based on one day's experience, Piedmont's well on its way.