Seamless Care, Remarkable Results

UW Health and UnityPoint Health – Meriter Partnership

Today’s healthcare industry is changing at a dramatic pace, often propelled by mergers, acquisitions and partnerships allowing healthcare systems to provide care and services to larger regions of consumers.

These changes can seem confusing and complicated to the average person, and even to those who work in healthcare. Concerns can arise about potential depersonalization of care, resulting with patients feeling like they might be treated as a number, that they won’t get to know their provider(s), or that they’ll feel shuttled around.

Fortunately, Christine Schmidt, RN, a patient representative with Meriter, can attest that UW Health and UnityPoint Health-Meriter refuse to let that happen as a result of their joint operating agreement (JOA) and are determined to make it smooth and seamless for patients. A defining goal of the joint operating agreement is to ensure that the right care is provided at the right location.

“I meet with anyone who gets transferred to Meriter from UW Health as part of a pilot to see what process improvement might be needed,” says Schmidt, who’s been in her patient representative role for four years after serving as a labor and delivery nurse for 32 years.

“Medical and cardiac patients over the age of 60 are the main populations that have been transferred from the emergency departments (EDs) at University Hospital and East Madison Hospital. Transitioning these patients to Meriter allows us to place the right patient in the right setting where the care they need can be best provided.”

Since the implementation of the pilot in 2017, Schmidt has met with nearly 40 patients.

“Patients have been extraordinarily kind about the transitions and say that their transfers were smooth,” says Schmidt. “Not one complaint has been voiced.”

This positive feedback reassures Schmidt and leaders of both organizations that the JOA is proving successful in this area, thus far.

“The most important piece of our partnership is to ensure that patient care is not disrupted or compromised in any way,” says Sue Rees, DNP, RN, CPHQ, CENP, Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer-Inpatient. “The work Christine and the service excellence group are doing serves as a great ‘pulse check’ for us, and we’re confident that this success will carry over into all areas of care that we provide jointly.”

Older adults are one particular patient population that Schmidt says “are handled with extra TLC at both UW Health and Meriter.”

“The elderly patients say they feel so taken care of, which is reassuring to hear,” says Schmidt. “They are typically fragile and there is some extra kindness involved in getting them from point A to B very carefully, and in the best way possible. Not one older patient has ever said ‘this doesn’t feel right.’ There literally have been no questions, no qualms.”

Throughout the pilot, Schmidt recalls some instances when little things seemed to matter most.

“There was a 94-year-old patient who was very particular about her hair,” Schmidt said. “She misplaced her Velcro rollers in transit, so I ran out to purchase some for her. She was thrilled.”

Schmidt also comments that one particular gentleman was extremely appreciative of the nightshift nurse who wrapped him “extra tight” in a blanket when he couldn’t seem to get warm.

In addition, it’s communicated to patients that the transfers are not billed to them in any way.

“We let them know that UW Health and Meriter are picking up the tab,” says Schmidt. “These little things and the extra special treatment seem to be the most appreciated.”

Future plans for Schmidt include meeting with infusion patients, to see how services can be improved, given the recent move of some infusion services from UW Health to Meriter.

“Change can be difficult,” says Schmidt. “The key is to continuously review our processes and improve the patient experience to ensure the care each person receives is seamless. Our hope is to make it better than ever before.”