Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling Karali Plonsky’s name.
ROCK SPRINGS – Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County continues to improve its patient care philosophy, utilizing a methodology from an international organization focused on patient care.
The philosophy is part of the Planetree International approach to person-centered care. Planetree International is a nonprofit organization that seeks to set a standard for care and “strengthen meaningful connections between staff, patients, families, and the communities” hospitals serve.
The hospital is one of two Wyoming hospitals affiliated with Planetree International, the other being the West Park Hospital in Cody. MHSC intends to seek Planetree’s Excellence in Person-Centered Care certification, with plans to apply for certification by the end of the year. If granted, MHSC would become the first hospital in Wyoming with the Planetree certification. The hospital has been affiliated with Planetree since 2018.
Speaking at the hospital board of trustees’ meeting Wednesday afternoon, Cindy Nelson, the patient experience coordinator for the hospital, said interactions focused on what’s important to the patient lead to better outcomes and care. She said the more known about what is important to a patient, the better the care hospital employees can provide. For example, knowing that a patient cares about a pet and allowing that patient to see their pet in the main lobby of the hospital can be beneficial to the patient. This leads to what are defined as “Mango Moments,” where hospital staff grant small and easily fulfilled requests by patients. The moments are named for an instance at a Planetree-affiliated hospital where a patient asked to have a mango and was given one. Karali Plonsky, the hospital’s quality analyst, said these moments improve the patient’s experience.
Plonsky said the philosophical change isn’t something that happens overnight, with Planetree hospitals working at improving care through a patient-oriented philosophy for as long as five or seven years. She said hospitals have even codified the care philosophy in their policies.
“It’s about humanizing healthcare,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the Planetree approach has led her to start asking patients questions such as what the best and worst part of their hospital stay was, if staff remembered the patient if they’ve been to the hospital before, was the staff kind to them, and what do they wish for while they’re at the hospital.
Nelson said the certification helps the hospital tell its story and how they operate. The hospital conducts Planetree workshops with new employees as part of their orientation. Irene Richardson, the hospital’s CEO, said she conducted the most recent Planetree training in October, saying the workshops help put staff in the patients’ shoes, as well as allow staff members in different departments have a better understanding of one another.
“We’ve gotten some really great feedback on that,” Richardson told the board.
Plonsky said she has been able to see a shift at the hospital during the five and a half years she has worked there.
“You can feel a difference,” she said.
She isn’t the only person who has noticed a positive change. Sweetwater County Commissioner Taylor Jones, who serves as the commissioners’ liaison to the hospital and is a former member of its board of trustees, said he has also seen improvements as MHSC has implemented more of the Planetree International philosophy. One of the areas he has seen improvements in is the number of complaints the hospital has received on social media, saying he’s noticed a “huge decrease” in the number of complaints.
After the hospital applies for certification, it could receive a bronze, silver or gold rating. However, a gold rating itself isn’t the end goal for MHSC.
“We’re never done, we can always do more,” Nelson said.