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Ukiah Valley Medical Center Strives to Improve the Patient Experience


UKIAH, CA  -- Hospitals are not on most people’s lists of places they want to be in. They often associate hospitals with needles, ill-fitting hospital gowns and bland food. However, Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC) is pursuing ways to improve the patient experience through the help of an organization called Planetree. 

In the 1970’s, Planetree’s founder Angelica Thieriot was hospitalized in the Bay Area where she appreciated the technology and advanced approaches of treating disease, but was left feeling cold by her impersonal experience.  She set out to develop a model of care built around personalizing, humanizing and demystifying health care from the patient’s perspective. 

“The Planetree model is a perfect fit for UVMC,” says UVMC CEO Gwen Matthews, who continued “As a nurse myself, I want to ensure that each patient receives compassionate, skillful care that heals the body, the mind and the spirit, and embraces the family in that circle of caring.”

“The Planetree approach ties in with our mission so beautifully,” explains Matthews.

“While making sure our quality of care is top-notch, we also offer many amenities to help enhance the healing process,” noted UVMC VP of Patient Care, Heather Van Housen. “We have massage for our patients and their family members. Quiet Packs filled with a lavender packet, lotion, ear plugs, and sleep mask are given to patients who stay the night with us. There are images of local scenery on our walls and our volunteers deliver flowers to our patients every Friday. Those are just a few examples of what we are planning to implement as part of our patient-centered programs on this Planetree journey,” concluded Van Housen.

"We also have aromatherapy, reading materials available, blankets to keep you warm or if you want to talk to the Chaplain, we can arrange that for you too," says Susan Passalacqua, the hospital's Planetree coordinator.

As the program’s coordinator, Passalacqua plays a key role in guiding the program development based on what the community feels patient centered care should be. She refers to what she does as a “concierge service”. "Our goal is to make sure we take the patient and their family’s needs to heart. We want personal care to match the clinical excellence. So as patients reflect on their time with us they remember it as a positive healing experience.”

Passalacqua cites a recent patient’s experience as an example of a healing environment. “This patient shared how relaxed he felt while listening to music during treatment at our Cancer Center. As he was later hospitalized, an engaged staff member recognized an opportunity to extend healing beyond medicine and arranged for a musician to play for him,” concluded Passalacqua.

“Our goal is to be attentive – able to put ourselves in our patient’s shoes and think about what would make things better for them,” added Passalacqua.

To ensure UVMC is meeting the needs of patients and their family members, monthly focus groups are being conducted so that previous patients can share what they liked about their stay and what can be done better. “We want every patient’s experience to be excellent, and there’s no one more qualified to define this than the patients we care for,” explains Passalacqua.

Former patients are invited to attend a Patient Experience cabinet and share their experience and ideas. Previous and current patients are invited to attend. For more information, please call (707)-463-7616.

--  UVMC  --

Ukiah Valley Medical Center is part of Adventist Health, a faith-based, not-for-profit integrated health care delivery system serving communities in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Our workforce of 28,600 includes more than 20,500 employees; 4,500 medical staff physicians; and 3,600 volunteers. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist health values, Adventist Health provides compassionate care in 19 hospitals, more than 220 clinics (hospital-based, rural health and physician clinics), 14 home care agencies, seven hospice agencies and four joint-venture retirement centers. We invite you to visit [Hospital Website] for more information.