At its core, patient safety is about making improvements to the healthcare system that result in the safest environment and procedures possible for patients. Because of this, our hospitals are always looking for opportunities to improve. Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to find out how you can do better is to ask the people you serve: the patients.

Many of our hospitals have started patient advisory boards where patients are invited to give feedback on how they can improve. That’s what we do at Raulerson Hospital, where I’m privileged to serve as CEO.

Every quarter, we randomly select patients who were previously discharged and invite them and a family member to a dinner and roundtable discussion with our hospital administration. The question we ask each group is simple. “What can we do better?”

Some of the improvements that have come out of these quarterly discussions are things like reducing hallway noise at night to make it easier for patients trying to rest. We installed acoustical tile in the halls, put carpet around the nurse’s stations and replaced the wheels on our carts with quieter ones.

We also created “no passing zones policy” based on feedback. This meant that no hospital employee could pass a patient’s room if the call light above their door was on. I really like this one because whether you’re a nurse or work at the front desk, addressing the patient’s needs is everyone’s responsibility. If the request is beyond an employee’s level of expertise, their job is to find someone who can help.

Another change we implemented based on feedback from these dinners was making sure our customer service number was prominently displayed in every room. We printed big, bright, yellow stickers made with the phone number in large font then stuck them on the white boards in every patient’s room. Now, no matter where you are in one of our rooms, that number is always visible.

Another change we implemented based on feedback from these dinners was to use the white board in the patient’s room differently. White boards are a great way to communicate, so in addition to listing the scheduled tests and procedures for the day and the nurse’s name, we ask the patient to tell us one goal they have for their stay at Raulerson then write that on the board. We find it’s a great way to engage.

Our patient advisory meetings are something I look forward to every quarter. I love getting to know the people we serve and hearing their stories. A hospital exists to serve its community. I can’t think of a better way to do that than to ask our community how we can serve them better.