Patient Experience Week - April 24-28

April 27, 2017

This week, April 24-28, Penn Highlands Healthcare is celebrating Patient Experience Week.


This annual event recognizes healthcare staff’s impact on people’s every day experience as a patient. It is used to educate and encourage efforts to improve that experience for everyone – patients, families and caregivers.


Fairly new, this is the fourth year this week has been marked internationally, but the first time it will be celebrated locally.


“This is a week to focus on accomplishments, reenergize efforts and honor the people who have created an exceptional experience for our patients and loved ones,” Linda Melillo, MA, MS, CPXP, System Director of Patient Experience for all of Penn Highlands Healthcare.


“From nurses and physicians, support staff and executive professionals, to volunteers, housekeeping, maintenance and the communities we serve, we are all a part of the patient experience,” she said.

If a patient has a great experience from the start of seeking care, their health outcomes are “significantly improved,” Melillo said. “People become more engaged in their care, understand their needs better and have the tools they need to make better decisions and choices about things that impact their health.”

Patient experiences start at the first interaction and continue even after going home. It’s about building relationships and coordinating care with patients and their providers, rather than working in silos.

“For example, when a patient calls us, do we make them feel welcome? Can he or she get an appointment when they need it?” Melillo said. “When we provide patients with a service, do we coordinate that service with other care providers? Do we explain things in a way our patients and families can understand? We need to treat the whole person, not just their disease.”


“Patients’ needs and desires should always be a part of their care plans. Healthcare clinicians must consider what the patient has as a goal?  For example, consider a high school senior trying to get an athletic scholarship and he or she has been in a car accident.  Their goal may be choosing a more aggressive surgery or rehabilitation than the average person.  Rather than planning a course of care for that person, without their input, we should fully educate our patients about their options, including clinical  recommendations, and then ask our patients which course they wish to pursue.  Then healthcare should do what it can to help them reach their goals. That is patient-centered care.”


“It’s important to recognize that in the majority of cases our staff and physicians already do this, but this week is a reminder about how important it is to provide this level of compassion to every patient, every day, and to each other as part of the care team.


“The community should know that the challenge of improving the patient experience is not restricted to one hospital or country,” Melillo said. “It’s a global challenge and there are international organizations dedicated to research on this issue, as well as patient experience professionals working to improve the experience of healthcare.”


“We want to improve the experience of our patients and their loved ones as much as possible through compassion, support, education and working together as a team to achieve the best possible patient outcome. We want the patient to be at the center of all we do.”


Another effort that will increase the patient and family voice in the Penn Highlands Healthcare system is the creation of Patient & Family Advisory Councils (PFAC) at each hospital.  Community members who have been a patient or the family member of a patient receiving care at Penn Highlands will have an opportunity to apply to be a PFAC member.  These councils will include both Penn Highlands staff,  patients and family members who will collaborate on many projects to improve the Penn Highlands Healthcare patient experience, which research tells us also improves patients’ health outcomes.


This week, throughout the Penn Highlands system, a committee made up of employees from all four hospitals, our nursing facility and provider offices have organized educational and fun reminders for Patient Experience Week 2017.


In her new role, like many in hospitals around the globe, Melillo will work on this issue throughout the system and throughout the year to champion the goal to always provide a compassionate, patient-centered approach to improving every patient experience.