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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Hospital leaders at Naval Hospital Yokosuka are implementing a new approach to care that places the patients first by offering “caring” in addition to “care,” officials said.

“No one remembers great medical care; they remember the little things [like] the corpsman holding their hand,” said executive officer Capt. Greg Hoeksema.

The new approach includes family-centered care, which focuses on families as well as individuals, and the addition of a patient representative on the hospital’s executive steering council, someone not a health-care professional who will attend meetings to represent patients’ interests.

Many of the measures are extensions of Navy-wide initiatives to improve care by making hospitals more patient- and family-friendly, Hoeksema said.

Single sailors’ or geographic bachelors’ “families” can include anyone they choose, such as a girlfriend, roommate or colleague, he said.

Under family-centered care, doctors include families in the treatment process — picking medication for example — to find the most appropriate option.

Including families also helps education and communication, making it less likely patients will forget an important detail. Information is provided in different languages to help non-English-speaking spouses.

Other examples include eliminating visiting hours so people can visit anytime, a boon for sailors with odd work hours, and making every attempt to get patients seen by doctors the same day they seek an appointment.

“It’s not just one project, it has to be a culture” of change, said Megumi Kurisaki, customer relations officer.

The hospital also will evaluate every complaint and approach it as a tool for doing things better, Hoeksema said. If the staff can’t placate an angry patient, it isn’t doing its job.

“That historically hasn’t been the culture at military hospitals,” he said.

Each clinic is crafting programs to help extend care to the family in that area. At the surgery clinic, for example, if a male patient with a Japanese wife comes in for a colonoscopy, the hospital will check if the wife has had a stomach cancer test, an illness more common to people of Asian ancestry, said Lt. Charles Dickerson, surgery clinic nurse.

The addition of a patient representative on the steering committee will help leaders be most responsive to the community’s needs, Hoeksema said.

Terry Alvarado, an ombudsman, is charged with reminding leaders to keep patients and families in mind when making policies.

“From the patient’s point of view, how does [a policy] make sense?” Hoeksema said. “That’s what she’s there for, to benefit the patient.”

Alvarado was selected from a group of ombudsmen who are familiar with issues affecting military families.

“She’ll be a good sounding board for us,” Kurisaki said. “The program will guide us, not just for a good outcome health- wise but [people’s] overall experience of the hospital.”


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