Patient-Centered Care Today

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders Media , August 26, 2008

I had the good fortune last week to tour Griffin Hospital, in Derby, CT, a winner of this year's Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare. Griffin has good patient outcomes and physician relations for sure, but it attracts patients from well beyond its target region—and gives tours to hospital leadership teams from around the world—because it has embraced the Planetree model of patient-centered care.

At Griffin, leadership decided many years ago that to be able to extend its mission to the community, all employees had to change fundamentally the way the hospital engages patients and delivers care, and that started by understanding at the deepest level what patients and their families want and need from their caregivers.

As I toured the facility, the byproducts of Griffin's transformation were striking. Despite being a 160-bed facility 10 miles outside of New Haven, Griffin doesn't have the atmosphere of a typical acute-care community hospital. It had many hotel-like touches: natural lighting, music in the lobby, private rooms, carpeting throughout the facility, and valet parking. But it also encouraged engagement with patients and their families: 24-hour visiting, open medical records, comfortable family rooms, signs reminding patients to ask doctors questions, and patient rooms that provide a line of sight to the nurses' station.

Even though these amenities improve care for all patients, they are especially important for those seeking care for elective but necessary procedures. These are the patients that choose to travel past other nearby hospitals to enjoy the comforts and care at Griffin. And no doubt that's how Griffin improves its margin. What's more, the collective power of all of these changes creates a strong and lasting message to patients, family, and hospital staff. The patient comes first. This singular focus has over time improved Griffin's organizational culture to the point that the hospital has been named one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For—nine years running.

As I walked the halls at Griffin, I was struck by how mature and honest a leadership team must be with itself to embark on this type of organizational evolution. After all, how many hospital CEOs would have been willing to acknowledge that they weren't really putting patients first? That everyone in the organization could do more to better care for patients and their families? That they must change?

The latest news out of the The Joint Commission is that new standards for culturally competent patient-centered care are on the way. I wonder whether similar international standards could be on the way from JCI. For global destination hospitals, the lessons from Griffin should take on even greater significance. New technology and a well-trained medical staff just aren't enough to provide the care that patients expect. Reach out to patients today to find out what they want and then do your best to give it to them.

It sounds simple, but you know it isn't.

Rick Johnson is senior online editor of HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at
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