Private hospitals’ great work recognised in APHA awards


The Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) Awards for Excellence recognise the great work going on behind the scenes in private hospitals.

Bundaberg’s Friendly Society Private Hospital has won in the category of Comprehensive Care for its Zero Harm program.

A cultural change program aimed at hardwiring a culture of accountability across the hospital, it focuses on strategic and operational goals striving for zero harm of patients and improving quality of care.

APHA CEO Michael Roff said the program was an example of private hospitals engaging with staff, patients, carers and families to achieve positive patient outcomes.

“With all staff, regardless of position, working towards an agreed set of common goals, this allows for measurement and monitoring of successes and areas of improvement,” Mr Roff said.

“As the hospital measures its results, it also acknowledges and celebrates its success, which serves to engage and motivate staff and reward them for their focus and effort.”

The Zero Harm program has resulted in a significant increase in patient satisfaction.

Their Press Ganey scores have increased from 87 percent in 2012, to 93 percent in 2019; while a 2018 Medibank Private patient experience survey showed 100 percent of patients who had stayed overnight at the hospital would recommend it to others.

In Sydney, the San Community Palliative Care Service at the Sydney Adventist Hospital, has won the APHA award for Clinical Excellence.

Developed to complement existing inpatient palliative care, the service provides access to specialist services that can deal with complex care in a community setting.

It is available to adult palliative care patients living within 10-15km of the hospital.

“This is a wonderful example of a private hospital seeking feedback from patients about their wishes at end of life, and implementing a program that has seen almost all of those patients in 2018-2019 period die in their preferred place,” Mr Roff said.

“We know Australians want to die at home – according to a 2017 Productivity Commission report, 70 percent of us would prefer to die at home, while only around 10 percent of patients do so.

“This program is also an example of private hospitals providing specialist care outside the hospital walls, something they would do more of if it was properly funded through private health insurance.

“This model is only able to be delivered through philanthropy.”

The service has implemented a number of strategies to improve patient outcomes when it comes to end of life wishes, including introduction of Patient Medical Alert Cards notifying emergency department staff that a patient is known to the palliative care service.

With this information, ED staff can access resuscitation and advance care directives, helping to prevent unwanted and futile investigations and procedures. Facility fees for re-entry to the hospital are waived for these patients.

There has been a significant improvement in patients’ end of life wishes being met. Research on the model shows patients were much more likely to die at home and there were fewer hospital admissions overall, with significant cost savings demonstrated.

Award judges were very impressed with the program and results, with one suggesting “this initiative could become a national demonstration site”.

Bethesda Health Care in Perth has won the Consumer Partnership and Engagement Award, for its Consumer Partnership Committee.

The committee has opened up communications between the hospital, carers, patients, families and the executive team.

“The hospital has showed leadership in working with their patients for a better health care experience,” Mr Roff said.

After Bethesda Health Care implemented its Consumer Partnership Committee, a number of changes were made around the hospital.

These included changes to the volunteer processes for supporting patients, including developing a ‘concierge’ role to take patients from admission to rooms; and a specific volunteer role for the surgical ward, providing both physical and emotional help.

The committee is involved at a strategic level in the hospital and their input directly impacts hospital decisions. They are also advocates for patients.

“In the current care environment, the services private hospitals provide will be in high demand and patients of hospitals like Bethesda Health Care will know they are getting excellent care, but also care informed from talking to patients and understanding their needs,” Mr Roff said.

“This model of consumer partnership is just one way private hospitals are working with their communities to deliver even better care to patients.’’

He added private hospitals prided themselves on delivering high quality care to Australians.

“Private hospitals are committed to providing care when it is needed, by the doctor of choice, in the hospital of choice,” Mr Roff said.

“They are able to respond directly to the needs of their community.”


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