According to this story on NPR, only infants go to the Emergency Room at a higher rate than people 75 and older. But in most cases, the experience at the ER does not reflect this. There are some ERs now designed exclusively for kids, but what about seniors?
Speaking from experience, I know that as a parent you really have to advocate – sometimes loudly – when being treated at the ER. There’s commotion and different doctors and nurses popping in and out. When my son was there a few years ago, I remember needing to run out and track someone down when I noticed he was getting worse.
So what’s it like for a 90 year-old? It may be a jarring, uncomfortable experience.
Holy Cross Hospital in Maryland decided to create an ER just for these patients, including ensuring specialists with a focus on the needs of geriatric patients would be available. The focus on the patient provides better care across the board.
Each detail was not only thoughtfully considered, but also evaluated by experts and even tested by patients. When they considered painting the walls a soothing blue, experts on aging eyes told them it may come across as gray…dirty and dingy. So they set a new course to paint rich, brown walls with lots of white contrast.
They tested and gathered feedback before committing to some basic purchases. Patients in this age group came in to try out various mattresses. They were all softer and more comfortable than typical hospital beds, but the winner wasn’t selected until patients had been given a voice.
Here’s the real beauty of this very customer-centric approach…the problems that bring most of us to the ER are quick fixes – true trauma. But the causes of senior visits are often related to chronic issues and need long-term care. Now the focus is on a holistic approach to treating patients so there is appropriate follow up and outreach. Becoming customer focused allowed this hospital to provide much better care for the patients.
It’s also a great example of how making changes to the immediate experience can create a long-term relationship.
It’s a wonderful idea, and it shows what really knowing who your customers are can do – recreate the entire experience for the better of all involved.