A More Human Approach to Long Hospital Stays
What We Did
- Conducted extensive ethnographic research in long term acute care hospitals around the country.
- Identified patient needs unique to the long-term setting. Organized these needs into a grouped hierarchy for further study and improvement.
- Designed an experience improvement plan to make patients feel more in control of their stays.
Being in the hospital for three days is tiresome–three weeks is an entirely different matter. In our work with patients in long-term critical care environments, we studied the physical and physiological needs created by long hospital stays.
Vibra Healthcare is a national, private specialty care provider, focused on the development and management of freestanding Acute Medical Rehabilitation Hospitals (IRF), and Critical Care Hospitals (LTACH). Benjamin & Bond is a part of Vibra Healthcare’s Innovation Collaborative—an interdisciplinary team of Vibra Healthcare staffers and external experts who work together to improve the organization by solving problems and uncovering new opportunities. Benjamin & Bond was asked to study and improve the patient experience at Vibra Healthcare critical care hospitals. Patient experience improvement projects are traditionally based on generalities, focus groups and after-the-fact survey responses. When designing its research plan, Benjamin & Bond trashed these methods and started from scratch. Ultimately we spent hundreds of hours sitting at the patient bedside, bonding, listening and watching. One researcher spent 24-consecutive hours with a patient, seeking to understand the details that break through the monotony of a long hospital stay. A three-day stay in a short term acute care hospital is very different than a 35-day stay in an LTACH, but the experiences have been designed basically the same way. Benjamin & Bond showed Vibra Healthcare how it could connect with and support its patients through changes as small as switching the times it delivered medications to offering sedentary patients the chance to have their hair washed.
A long stay in a hospital is a major loss of control for a patient; we showed Vibra Healthcare how to give agency to patients without unduly burdening already stretched care teams. The process was extraordinarily emotional. We witnessed firsthand the needs and expectations of patients. Our recommendations helped Vibra Healthcare to not only improve the quality of its care but also improve people’s lives.
In addition to our extensive work with patients, our team studied staff and administrative leadership to inform our findings. We wanted to understand the impediments that kept them from providing the experience they want to provide. Ultimately, the value of the project went far beyond a simple list of recommended changes. We provided Vibra Healthcare with a hierarchy of LTACH patient needs to focus all patient experience efforts on the factors that truly matter. Many recommendations have been implemented already, including a full-time Patient Liaison position in the budget for each hospital.