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In 2011, Yale New Haven Health created a system-wide Service Excellence Council which focused on understanding what was in place across the system to share best practices related to patient experience.

The group was led by then-Greenwich Hospital President and CEO Frank Corvino, and included system and patient relations leaders, along with physician, nursing and staff champions from all three hospitals and Northeast Medical Group.

In January 2015, the council was reconstituted, renamed the YNHHS Patient Experience Council, and placed under the leadership of Michael Bennick, MD, who expanded its membership significantly to include representation from Health System Corporation departments such as the Institute for Excellence, Human Resources, Marketing and Communications, Information Technology Services, Planning, Pharmacy and Finance.

The new Patient Experience Council's mission is to provide leadership that will engage staff and hold them accountable by implementing strategies for delivering an exceptional patient and family experience. The council meets quarterly, with monthly work group meetings, and reviews HCAHPS and Press Ganey performance data, along with corporate objectives. The group also serves as a central clearinghouse to evaluate patient-related issues and concerns and vet solutions and project ideas.

"The council has been identifying and sharing best practices across the system so more patients can have access to these practices," said Dr. Bennick. "We also want our best practices to be in use, not just in each hospital, but in the outpatient and inpatient settings, across all work shifts."

One of the council's major tasks has been overseeing the annual Patient Experience Conference, which was first held on a much smaller scale in 2001. The event has grown significantly and for the past three years attracted more than 1,000 attendees and dozens of poster presentations.

Another of the group's major accomplishments is beginning implementation of the Emmi Solutions education and engagement software throughout YNHHS to support communication with patients and empower them to manage their own health. Emmi Prevent, the first phase, launched last year and involved automated phone calls which reached thousands of very specific patient groups who might need a diabetic eye exam, colonoscopy or flu shot. The second phase begins this spring. Emmi Engage will offer multimedia educational programs and articles delivered to patients over the web and to mobile devices.

Another best practice the council endorsed was the recent implementation of Family Touch at Greenwich Hospital. Family Touch is a communications tool that updates family members of ambulatory surgery patients on the patients' status with secure, one-way text messages. After a successful pilot at Greenwich, Family Touch will expand to other areas in the system.

"Even more than the council's many accomplishments in just over a year," said Dr. Bennick, "I am proud of how group members really talk to one another, honestly and openly about the things that are important to patients."