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St. John's targets customer service, care delivery in '98

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More than 370 employed physicians and 500 affiliated physicians located in 32 counties from Rolla, Mo., to Berryville, Ark., comprise St. John's Health System.

Fostering an environment where primary care, specialty care and surgical care physicians work as a team to deliver quality health care continues to be a goal for 1998.

"In working toward that goal, we have identified four areas of emphasis: customer service, community health status, care delivery and communication," said Allen Shockley, president and chief executive officer.

Projects are under way in each of these areas to enhance St. John's services and to improve communication with patients and staff members.

Customer service. Inpatient, outpatient and emergency room surveys will continue to identify opportunities that will allow us to implement changes to improve patient satisfaction. Survey data will be integrated into the continuous quality improvement process to assure results.

St. John's has a system-wide policy for comment and complaint follow-up procedures with an electronic bulletin board for tracking complaints.

Community health status. St. John's will continue to be involved in the CHART (Community Health Assessment Resource Team) process established by the Missouri Department of Health and Missouri Hospital Association, collaborating with the local advocates for a healthy community task force.

"Patient education is a significant part of this process," Shockley said. "We want to concentrate on preventive health and general wellness."

Specific projects to improve community health include expanded access to care, participation in clinical research and continued development of St. John's employee wellness program as a model for the Ozarks. St. John's will also continue to recruit physicians and open clinics in communities which need health services.

Care delivery. "The challenge is to provide access to needed medical care, to focus on coordination of quality care delivery and to equip physicians with the resources to meet these challenges," said Ronnie Brownsworth, MD, chief physician executive.

Physician leadership is a vital part of St. John's Health System. St. John's will continue to coordinate practice guidelines for physician offices, best-of-practice standards for home care and clinical pathways throughout the health system in 1998.

Another goal aimed at making care delivery more efficient is to have information readily available across the health system. This includes continued development of the clinical data repository, or electronic medical record.

"The electronic medical record lets us look at quality assurance studies in a way we've never done before. How well we do this determines our future success and allows us to really function as an integrated system," Shockley said.

Communication. Goals for the year include refinement of an internal communication strategy with input from the Clinical Management Executive Council, St. John's physicians and clinics department chairs, and health system administration. St. John's also plans to continue to expand after-hours triage for physician offices through The Professionals health information service.

"The operational boundaries between physician office and hospital are slowly fading with an increased emphasis on the full continuum of care," Brownsworth said.

The physicians of St. John's Health System are moving from independent groups toward one group working together to help determine the best possible outcome for their patients.

Integration has been a work in progress since the announcement of the formation of St. John's Health System in 1994. "We're all learning how to work together during a time of very significant change," Shockley said. "We are working extremely hard to develop a culture of trust to build a strong foundation."

(The preceding article was provided by St. John's Health System.)

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