Minnesota’s best hospitals and clinics constantly strive to bring more compassion to their care. Not only do these groups employ cutting-edge tools and techniques, but they regularly improve their health-care processes.
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Problem: Some cancerous tumors—especially those in the brain, lung, and prostate—are considered surgically complex or even inoperable, leaving patients with few good options.
New Approach: St. Joseph’s Hospital is one of just two Minnesota sites to offer the CyberKnife system (the Miller-Dwan Medical CyberKnife Center in Duluth is the other), a non-invasive procedure that trains targeted radiation beams onto tumors. They system’s sub-millimeter accuracy and ultrahigh dose of radiation destroys cancer cells.
Payoff: Not only does the surgery-free approach have the potential for fewer complications, but it may give new options for those who have been told their tumors are inoperable.
Rooms for Two
The new Mother Baby Center, a joint venture between Children’s Hospitals and Abbott Northwestern, isn’t just about high-tech pediatrics—it’s also about comfort for parents and their newborns.
Media: Flat-screen TVs, DVD players, iPod docks, and in-room WiFi for all those new-baby Facebook updates.
Convertible chairs/beds: So everyone in the family can get a little sleep.
Specialists at the ready: The building’s circular layout allows top specialists to be crib-side in seconds.
Spacious showers: Bathrooms feel more like they belong in a boutique hotel than a hospital.
Food: Starz Café is the country’s first restaurant at a children’s hospital to support local, sustainable food through the Healthy Food in Health Care pledge.
Babies and moms, together: The Special Care Nursery allows premature newborns to stay with their parents in a private patient room after mom is discharged, instead of a separate care area.
Better Health Beyond Medicine
Western medicine and alternative approaches historically have had an oil-and-water relationship: they haven’t mixed. But many hospitals are now looking beyond pharmaceutical fixes to practice a more holistic care strategy. “It’s easy for people to treat physical conditions,” says Courtney Jordan Baechler, vice president at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing with Allina Health. “But we never want to forget about the connection that our mind and spirit play in our body’s ability to heal and stay well.” Here’s how some hospitals are using the best of both worlds to help patients get—and stay—healthy.
Creating calm before the storm: Optional, free pre-surgical coaching appointments at Abbott Northwestern Hospital through the Penny George Institute help nervous patients regain a sense of calm and control before surgery, which can cause stomach-churning anxiety. Barb Hopperstad, one of the integrative health and wellness coaches at the institute, spends up to an hour with patients, by phone or in person, to help them reframe their concerns, such as feeling helpless about their condition or finding child-care while they’re in the hospital. “I help make sure they’re consciously aware of their resources—such as a supportive family or church members who will cook meals for them—to help them get through this experience,” she says. “I want them to see that their own strengths, something as simple as a high tolerance for pain, can help give them a sense of control and help them have the best possible recovery.”
Sticking to it: The millennia-old practice of acupuncture is finding its way into an increasing number of hospitals and clinics. At Woodwinds Health Campus and through Allina’s Penny George Institute, acupuncture is a regular part of the healing process. Acupuncturists at Woodwinds HealthEast make daily rounds alongside medical staff. Under the guidance of the Penny George Institute, all patients who get joint replacements at Abbott Northwestern are referred for acupuncture. Acupuncture is also frequently used to help patients relax and sleep more soundly in the bustling hospital environment.
Healing through scent: At the Penny George Institute, Allina physicians and nurses are offered training in the uses of aromatherapy, which can be prescribed to patients in the same way as drugs. Patients who have undergone bowel surgery, for example, frequently experience nausea post-surgery. Ginger aromatherapy, which has been shown to diminish post-operative nausea, is often prescribed instead of traditional anti-nausea medications. According to Courtney Jordan Baechler, Penny George patients who use these aromatherapy options see a 40-percent reduction in nausea and anxiety.
In August, Minnesota became the first state in the country to publish patient-satisfaction data on a large scale when the Department of Health and a nonprofit organization, Minnesota Community Measurement, released survey results for 651 clinics around the state. As with any consumer rating—whether you’re relying on Yelp to guide you to a great burger joint or Angie’s List to help you find a skilled mechanic—the results can be useful, though imperfect.
The new report from Minnesota HealthScores was compiled from 230,000 patients surveyed in 2012; to be listed, each clinic provided at least 120 patient responses. Patients were asked to rank their experience in four areas: timely availability of appointments, respectful clinic staff, communication with the doctor, and overall experience.
Generally, the results were quite good: 78 percent of patients gave their doctors “excellent” ratings. Results from individual clinics varied widely, with urgent-care clinics receiving the lowest ratings—not surprising since patients don’t have an ongoing relationship with the provider, as they would with a primary-care clinic. Specific health concerns can also affect the rankings. For example, a patient whose sore throat was quickly resolved with an antibiotic prescription would be more likely to provide positive feedback than a patient being treated for chronic pain. Some doctors have also expressed concern that the rankings will hinder their ability to deliver unpopular news, such as telling patients that they need to lose weight or declining to order unnecessary tests.
Patient experience is just one component of health care that Minnesota Community Measurement studies. The group also publishes survey data regarding how many patients received best-practice treatment for acute conditions, such as heart attacks, and how many patients are meeting treatment goals for ongoing conditions, such as diabetes. It also compiles data on the average cost of common medical procedures—everything from colonoscopy to chest X-rays—at hospitals and clinics throughout the state. Find all the data at mnhealthscores.org.