Howard Chang, MD, Ascension Via Christi Emergency Services lead
Howard Chang, MD, who leads Emergency Services for Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals, is part of a national work group led by Allison Bollinger, MD, tasked with finding ways to improve patient experiences and outcomes in Ascension ERs.
During a group discussion in May, Chang suggested a simple step that all ER doctors could take to better connect with their patients and listen with compassion: Ensuring that whenever possible, physicians take a seat and communicate with patients at an eye-to-eye level.
Dr. Bollinger said, "Let's do it," and appointed Dr. Chang to lead the "Commit to Sit" pilot that started in mid-June at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.
"Taking a seat when talking with patients is not a new concept," says Dr. Chang, who is part of Vituity, a national group of emergency medicine specialists that provides physician services to Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals. "In fact, it's something we are all taught in medical school."
"With this initiative, we are simply reinforcing what we already know and setting an expectation that everyone will employ this approach of getting back to the basics of a positive doctor-patient relationship," he says.
Nurses and other bedside caregivers also are being encouraged to take a seat when communicating with their patients in the ER.
How has the initiative, which is also being piloted at Ascension Saint Agnes in Baltimore and AMITA Health's St. Mary and St. Elizabeth Medical Centers, been received?
"The entire team has embraced it," says Dr. Chang.
St. Francis compliance has been 90 percent or greater, above the initial goal established by the group, and about as good as it can be given that there are situations where sitting with the patient simply is not possible.
In fact, Commit to Sit has gone so well that Ascension Via Christi is planning to launch the initiative at all its Kansas hospital ERs within the next six weeks; plans also are underway to extend it to other Ascension ministry locations.
Patients report that they are feeling heard and that their physician caregivers are being good listeners, says paramedic Christie Chambers, who regularly rounds on patients to gather and share their feedback
"It seems to promote more effective communication all the way around," says Chambers, which she says translates to greater patient satisfaction.