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UIHC Disney trip defended

BY SCOTT RAYNOR | NOVEMBER 30, 2009 7:20 AM

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While some have questioned UI Hospital and Clinics officials’ pricey proposed Disney World visit for a lesson in management, others say no area options would meet the hospital’s needs.

UIHC officials recently announced they will take the Disney Institute’s course in management and customer satisfaction this spring. The trip will take 35 hospital executives to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Walt Disney World Resort and Celebration Health.

The trip will cost the UIHC around $130,000, a price tag causing concern among legislators such as Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who said he believes it’s wasteful spending. But hospital officials maintain the focus of the trip is to help the UIHC boost its low patient satisfaction rates.

Hospitals typically look at government ratings to measure patient satisfaction. In one aspect of patient satisfaction — if patients would rate the hospital from 9 to 10 — ratings show the UIHC scores a comparatively low 67 percent, in contrast with Mercy Hospital’s 79 percent and the 71 percent for St. Luke’s of Cedar Rapids.

The Disney Institute can also travel to the hospital instead of vice versa, but the cost can be higher than traveling to the Florida park because the client is responsible for the presenters’ traveling expenses, said Stacey Thomson, the Disney Institute’s public-relations manager.

Some have called for the UIHC to look for local consultants to save money, but others said no such organizations exist in Iowa.

Curtis Nelson, the CEO of the Entrepreneurial Development Center in Cedar Rapids — which works with the UI on such projects as patent commercialization — said he didn’t know anywhere in Iowa the UIHC could turn to.

His organization primarily consults to interstate commerce, which is not applicable to a hospital, he said.

“I don’t think there are any services in the state that have expertise in the area of hospital customer satisfaction,” he said.

University hospitals across the nation turn to a variety of consultants for patient satisfaction.

A little more than 10 years ago, the University of Kansas Medical Center had customer-satisfaction rates in the bottom 10 percentile of American hospitals, said hospital spokesman Dennis McCollouch.

In response, officials from that hospital cut administrative ties to the university, allowing them to hire a consultant — which cost them more than $100,000 — and move into the 19th percentile.

And St. Luke’s Hospital also took a different approach to improve its patient care.

The hospital chose Press Ganey five years ago, a consulting firm focused on hospital patients’ satisfaction based in Indiana, said Kent Jackson, St. Luke’s leader of the patient and family experience team. Jackson was not aware how much the service cost.

New England Baptist Hospital, which received the highest patient satisfaction rating — tied with the Mayo Clinic — does not consult with outside agencies but participates in Press Ganey’s surveys, said Erin McDonough, the vice president for public affairs.

Despite the availability of other options, officials from other hospitals said the Disney Institute has valuable benefits. University of Arkansas Hospital officials traveled to Florida for the institute and saw a considerable effect on their customer satisfaction.

“It made all the sense in the world to me,” said Jann Shorey, the associate dean for faculty affairs. “They understand quite deeply — whether it is entertainment or medicine — that it is a service industry.”


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