Preparing Your Experience

2014 Children's Hospital & Medical Center Snapshot

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Above and Beyond Care for Children

Like most 16-year-old girls, Madison couldn’t wait for prom night. For months, she helped plan the big event at school; she even got a job so she could pay for the perfect dress. Then—just days before prom—a sudden, life-threatening case of sepsis brought her to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, turning her life (and her plans) upside-down. Knowing how much attending prom meant to Madison, Children’s team stepped up to bring the prom to her in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The result? A special memory Madison will never forget—and a shining example of Children’s above and beyond care.

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Children's Hospital & Medical Center positively impacts the lives of individual children and families every single day. Behind each patient and every visit, you can be sure there's a story. When you step back and look at the accumulative numbers, you get an even greater sense of how many young lives are touched by the expert care received at Children's.


At Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, the remarkable achievements of our specialists and subspecialists, nurses, staff and colleagues in 2014 demonstrate the knowledge and experience to chart the proper course for pediatric health care – and that we are taking significant steps in the right direction.



Cardiac Outreach

Extending High-quality Care to Children throughout the Region

They fan out by air and interstate from "home base" in Omaha, a team of pediatric cardiologists, nurses and cardiac sonographers going the extra mile – or in this case, the extra tens of thousands of miles – to provide high-quality, clinical care to children throughout the region.


Cardiac Outreach

Extending High-quality Care to Children throughout the Region

They fan out by air and interstate from "home base" in Omaha, a team of pediatric cardiologists, nurses and cardiac sonographers going the extra mile – or in this case, the extra tens of thousands of miles – to provide high-quality, clinical care to children throughout the region.

"Many families cannot travel great distances for a cardiac clinic visit and many physicians are less willing to send a patient a long distance for cardiology clinic if they suspect the problem is minor," says pediatric cardiologist Christopher C. Erickson, M.D., director of Electrophysiology and Pacing, Children's Hospital & Medical Center. "Providing clinical specialty and subspecialty care in communities across the region is one of the most useful things we can do."

This concerted outreach effort underscores the commitment of Children's to meet the medical needs of a broader pediatric population – beyond the walls of the hospital and the city of Omaha. Every two weeks, a cardiologist and a nurse from Children's fly to Rapid City, S.D., for a two-day clinic. Twice monthly trips are made to the Children's Specialty Pediatric Clinic in Lincoln, NE; monthly trips take teams to Sioux Falls, S.D., and more communities throughout greater Nebraska including Columbus, Grand Island and North Platte.

"Cardiology has the largest outreach coverage of any division at Children's. We see many patients," says pediatric cardiologist John D. Kugler, M.D., one of nine pediatric cardiologists in the Children's travel rotation, along with five nurses.

Echocardiograms are utilized in clinic for front-line diagnoses. After a thorough clinical examination, a plan of care is developed. Perhaps a trip to Omaha for advanced testing or clinical intervention is necessary, perhaps not.

Families are making the most of these unique outreach opportunities. In 2013, 1,578 patient visits were recorded at Children's-sponsored and staffed cardiac clinics in South Dakota and Nebraska, doubling the number of visits from 2009. More than 420 echocardiograms were performed. During the twice monthly, two-day clinics in Rapid City, the traveling cardiologist and nurse see an average of 14 patients each day, many from Native American reservations including Pine Ridge.

Beyond the convenience and familiarity the visiting specialists provide families, "the clinics also allow us to maintain face-to-face, personal relationships with the referring pediatricians," Dr. Kugler says.

Children's cardiologists strive to keep those referring physicians informed as recommendations are made. They stress this is a team effort focused on taking care of the family.

The same team approach to care extends beyond the periodic clinics. Back in Omaha, another avenue of outreach is utilized almost every day – Children's cardiologists lend their expertise by interpreting thousands of digitally-transmitted echocardiograms (1,400 in 2013) and electrocardiograms (3,000 in 2013) from hospitals around the region.

"They are transmitted over the web. We interpret them here and call the results to the ordering pediatrician or neonatologist there," Dr. Kugler explains.

It's a collaborative approach that ensures the best possible care for children throughout the region, and the "Children's way" for more than a decade. For the parents of young patients, the convenience and efficiency of the outreach is coupled with peace of mind.

"It's rewarding to see parents appreciate that you're there," Dr. Kugler says. "It's rewarding to see patients doing so well because of the efforts of our entire team."

Healthier Lives
for Children

Children's Hospital & Medical Center is committed to preventing childhood obesity through proactive programs that teach parents and children how to adopt lifetime healthy eating and fitness habits. These efforts range from education in the classroom and multidisciplinary clinical intervention to diverse partnerships making a difference in the community. Our dedication reflects Children's founding mission, "...so that all children may have a better chance to live."

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Patient Experience

She relays the story with tears in her eyes; they're the tears of a grateful mother in the midst of her daughter's latest stay at Children's Hospital & Medical Center - a span that covered Easter weekend this time.


Ensuring a Remarkable Patient Experience Every Day, Every Time

She relays the story with tears in her eyes; they're the tears of a grateful mother in the midst of her daughter's latest stay at Children's Hospital & Medical Center - a span that covered Easter weekend this time.

"Dr. (Stephen) Dolter knew that Grace wanted to leave to hunt Easter eggs at her grandmother's house. So, he sat there and colored eggs on a piece of paper and hid them around the floor," shares Jennifer Meints, pausing for just a moment. "He did that for my daughter."

Meints and husband Eric are experts in the "patient experience." Their daughter, 12-year-old Grace, was diagnosed in utero with a brain abnormality, which evolved into a diagnosis of PHACE syndrome at 4 months of age.

A rare medical condition, PHACE (P-posterior fossa malformation, H-hemangioma, A-arterial abnormalities, C-cardiac defects, E-eye abnormalities) was first described in 1996 – just six years before Grace was born. She is one of the more than 400 cases of PHACE syndrome reported in medical literature – and one of the rarer few that has all five components of the syndrome. She has difficulty walking and a sensitivity to noise, but her biggest challenge, currently, is debilitating headaches. That's what brought her in over Easter weekend.

"I would say 95 percent of the time we're hospitalized, it's because of headaches," Meints says. The Meintses, who have two other children, started coming to Children's when Grace was just a couple of months old.

"I can't tell you how many times we've been here; probably 50 times inpatient in the last 12 years plus eight to 10 outpatient clinic appointments a year – in a ‘healthy' year," Meints explains. "I think we had 23 specialists when we started, most of them at Children's."

She continues, "The doctors here aren't just doctors; they really become a part of our family. We had Dr. (Joseph) Snow the first time we came here. He cared. He listened to us. He told us where we could go eat around here, just the little things. It might sound funny, but being from Lincoln, we didn't know. We've never forgotten that."

The little things. Cherie Lytle knows how important they are to patient families. She, too, is an expert in the "patient experience" – as Children's Patient Experience manager. The hospital created the role last fall, underscoring an organizational commitment to delivering a remarkable patient experience.

"I am not a clinical caregiver. I do not have a medical degree, but I love being able to advocate on behalf of our families and represent a non-medical view," Lytle explains. "Few things in life are as stressful as having a sick or injured child. I often tell colleagues that while we feel comfortable in a health care setting, many of our patients and families do not."

She adds, "We're really working with our teams to help them keep top-of-mind that we need to go above and beyond every day, every time. This is about caring for the family and the child and not just in a medical sense but in a very compassionate, human way."

A component of Children's strategic plan for 2015, improving the patient experience is an organizational priority that lives with every employee, including Gary Perkins, president and CEO, and the executive team.

"We've been working toward this for years," Lytle says.

Walk into the lobby at Children's and you'll see the "I am the Patient Experience" pledge to patients, families, visitors and colleagues prominently displayed. The "deceptively simple" pledge, which has been given to every employee to sign, outlines how Children's is striving to be caring, courteous, welcoming and respectful. So important is this concept of patient experience that Children's holds "patient experience celebration days" once or twice a quarter. All employees are encouraged to wear signature "I am the Patient Experience" t-shirts, a bold visual statement of Children's commitment to each and every patient and family.

"Going above and beyond every day is the right thing to do for our families. Every child is special, every child deserves our very best," Lytle says. "Beyond courtesy, respect and compassion, we're also identifying process improvements that focus on our families to ensure a good experience across every service, every part of the organization. It has to start internally. This is change. It's subtle change in some ways, but we hope that our families will begin to notice."

While ensuring a positive patient experience can be as simple as directing a lost parent, acknowledging inconvenience or taking extra time to sit and ensure a family's understanding, some of the experience-focused changes are more intensive. Children's recently implemented valet parking for families. "Knowing that an experience is going to start before a family is inside our doors, we wanted a valet service to provide a solid first impression. Our guests receive a smile and that great, helpful, welcoming attitude," Lytle shares. "In health care, being ‘nice' has traditionally been overshadowed by a focus on high quality medical care. Now, quality care is an expectation, and we must deliver on that promise. But, positive attitudes and behaviors help in the midst of a difficult time – our families need that, too."

Meints, herself, was instrumental in bringing patient-focused change to Children's a few years ago. After Grace had received a rapid MRI in Milwaukee – a process that lasted about five minutes and did not require sedation – Meints inquired about the possibility of bringing rapid MRI to Children's in Omaha. Pediatric radiologist Terri Love, M.D., immediately started investigating. Within one week, Children's was also providing a rapid MRI option.

"That's meant the world to me," Meints says.

Meints, who helped launch the nonprofit PHACE Syndrome Community (phacesyndromecommunity.org), says she would rate the patient experience very high at Children's.

"I appreciate the out-of-the box thinking for my daughter – that is huge. Without that, without the doctors that come up here late at night or call us at home on the weekend, I don't know if Grace would be here today. It doesn't happen everywhere you go."

Lytle likes to hear the positive – but she also likes to hear about areas of potential improvement. Children's gauges feedback in a number of different ways. Parents may receive a survey call after discharge asking them to rate their patient experience. Or, they may find themselves chatting, in person, with the Patient Experience manager.

"Our best way to measure how we're performing is by talking to our families. We have their voices around us every single day. I love listening to them. They always provide amazing feedback."

In a similar vein, Children's also solicits the input of a very active Family Advisory Council (FAC) and is launching a Youth Advisory Council in the fall. The FAC is comprised of 15 to 20 parents and guardians of current or former patients. Council feedback has led to changes in the discharge process, simplified billing statements and parent-approved recliners for Children's Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Children's Physicians also has its own FAC to help enhance the patient experience in primary care offices. Meints, who has served on the council in the past, says she doesn't have many complaints, "and if I do, I'm pretty good about letting them be heard."

For her part, she says she would love to see additional activity options for kids like Grace who are older but developmentally delayed, as well as a loosely-organized social time where inpatient parents can connect and share stories. But, she added, the focus also should not stray too far from the "little things."

"It's very important for new families to know those little things – to know about the Rainbow House, or cafeteria hours or the procedure on weekends," Meints says.

A mother herself, Lytle considers it an honor advocating for families. She says Children's is at the start of its "patient experience journey," a journey that is never going to end: there will always be another process that can be improved or more that can be done to otherwise assist families.

"Families choose us, and we take that trust very seriously," Lytle says. "We don't take anything for granted. Families are watching their health care dollars closely. They are willing to pay for quality, but we have to deliver. We want to be their pediatric health care provider of choice. We can achieve that not only by delivering excellent medical care but also a remarkable experience every time."

The Best
Place for Kids

2014 Snapshot

We say it often: children are unique. They are not just small adults. They deserve care that is developed specifically for them—expert care that is delivered each and every day at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

2014 was a year of tremendous growth at Children’s, as we strengthened key programs and services and made strides to enhance the patient experience. In this online snapshot, you will see how Children’s continues to live up to its reputation as the best place for kids.

Follow our journey; we hope it leaves you informed… and inspired!