Aspen Valley Hospital reaps awards for patient experience

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Vince Santucci (center, with his dog Emma) was in the hospital on his 93rd birthday. Aspen Valley Hospital staff celebrated with him at a party in the family waiting room.
Courtesy photo |

Aspen Valley Hospital patient experience Awards

• Healthgrades: 2016 Outstanding Patient Experience Award

• Five-star patient experience rating from Medicare

• Eight awards in patient experience from Avatar Solutions, including Best Performer, Overall Rating, Small Hospitals

• Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for Clinic Quality

Healthcare Service Excellence Conference: Hospital of Choice

• Breakthrough Award in patient experience

• 97th percentile for inpatient satisfaction

• 93rd percentile for emergency care

• 94th percentile for after-hours care

Aspen Valley Hospital can rattle off a list of awards it’s won this year, but its team members believe the real story is the team approach they take to making sure every patient’s experience is top-notch.

The hospital recently has won several awards for patient experience, many of which were based on positive responses in surveys filled out by patients after their stay. That’s something only patients can evaluate, points out Virginia Dyche, director of community relations, and team members say it’s the result of a ground-up approach to improving the patient experience at all staff levels.

“To me what these awards really signify is our interdisciplinary approach to patient care,” said April Boney, inpatient services director.

Nurses, doctors, nutritionists, physical therapists, even the patients and their families work together on caring for a patient from the moment they step into the hospital, she said. The medical staff members working with an individual needing inpatient services meet every day to discuss that person’s needs and make sure they’re getting what they need to leave the hospital with the shortest and safest possible stay, which Boney believes is why Aspen Valley Hospital also won specific awards for care transitions.

“We’re also trying to train the patient to take care of themselves at home,” said Lori Maloy, interim chief clinical officer. “Here we are always under 5 percent in readmission … because, I think, of the effort we make to prepare them for discharge.”

Pharmacists also work closely with patients and their physicians to make sure they’re getting the right medicine at the right dosage and understand how to take it, said Alyssa Franklin, director of pharmacy. That information gets included in a binder of information that patients take home and can bring to follow-up appointments with their primary care physicians.

Aspen Valley Hospital has recently implemented a service recovery program that helps staff members at all levels address issues with a patient before they leave the building. That includes a lot of nonmedical issues such as room cleanings and meals that staff members can address immediately without having to go to a supervisor.

“Our staff has really responded to that because they can fix things themselves,” Boney said

And it’s not necessarily just recovering from something that’s gone wrong: Just this week, staff members threw a birthday party for an elderly patient who’d been in the hospital for a long-term stay. And the hospital has a patient representative on staff that helps individuals, particularly visitors, who need flights rebooked, ADA-friendly hotel rooms or a ride to wherever they’re staying.

“It’s all in a goal to let the patient have the best experience while they’re here,” Boney said. “The above and beyond is what meets our mission of providing extraordinary health care.”

Through Project MATCH (Making Aspen the Choice Hospital), employees at all levels and in all departments can pitch ideas for improvements and implement them. For example, members of the housekeeping department found equipment that would dry floors faster after mopping to help prevent the risk of patients falling, and pharmacy employees implemented a specific process for educating patients on taking their medication.

The women all agreed that’s one of the reasons that staff members drive past other hospitals closer to their homes — as far away as Grand Junction for some — to work in Aspen.

“You can tell we’re all excited and proud about what we get to do here every day, and that the organization lets us be the type of health care providers we went to school to be,” Maloy said.

All of the above-and-beyond aspects of patient care would be irrelevant if the medical care was not also top-notch, Dyche pointed out. Aspen Valley Hospital encourages employees to speak up when they catch something amiss and has a non-punitive policy so that they don’t have to worry about getting themselves or another in trouble. The result is that the number of what they call “good catches” has gone up.

“Every single person in every department is working together to provide a safe experience,” Maloy said.