St. Vincent’s nurse, physician communication among top in Alabama

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, July 19, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

It is that time of the year where hospitals across the United States are named for outstanding work, and Ascension St. Vincent’s Chilton were among those recognized.

The Chilton County hospital earned three five-star ratings in categories released by Becker’s Hospital Review, a national healthcare magazine, in July. The hospital earned five-star ratings in physician communication, nurse communication and care transitions.

“We have a lot of good things going on from a patient experience standpoint,” hospital administrator Shanon Hamilton said.

Becker’s compiled the lists in each state using Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems data from CMS. CMS shared 10 HCAHPS star ratings based on publicly reported HCAHPS measures. The survey data was collected from July 2021 to June 2022.

The star rating combines data from three survey questions for each category. The three questions for physician communication were how well the patient’s physicians explained things clearly to them, how well the physicians listened carefully to the patients and if the physician treated the patient with courtesy and respect.

St. Vincent’s Chilton was one of six hospitals in Alabama to earn a five-star rating in physician communication.

“We have an awesome team, and we work really well together,” Pamela Culotta, director of nursing in the St. Vincent’s Health System, said. “From the time the patient arrives on our campus … We have a team that focuses specifically on that patient, and the care of that patient is tailored to their needs. We make sure that we as a team give the patient the care they deserve based on their needs, and that we do all that we can to make them better when they leave than when they arrived.”

Hamilton and Culotta agreed that they have learned that the more the physicians and nurses communicate with patients, the better the outcome of the situation will be.

Along with physician communication, St. Vincent’s Chilton was one of five hospitals in Alabama to earn a five-star rating in nurse communication as well. The same process to gather the information and the same three survey questions that were used by HCAHPS to formulate their ratings for physician communication were used for the nurse communication.

St. Vincent’s Chilton was also named one of four Alabama hospitals to receive a five-rating in care transitions. Care transitions is when a patient goes from the hospital’s care to back home or transferring somewhere else, knowing what they need to do to maintain good health and why it is important to take their medications properly that they were prescribed.

The same process was used by HCAHPS to compile these ratings as well, except the three survey questions were — during the hospital stay the staff took preferences and thoughts from family members into account in deciding health care needs when the patient left, when the patient leaves the hospital they have a good understanding of the things they are responsible for to manage their health and when the patient left they understood the purpose of taking each medication they were prescribed.

“It is that understanding of whenever I discharge (from the hospital) or transfer, and any time my care transitions, how do I need to manage my health based on the information that was provided to me by my healthcare provider,” Hamilton said.

Culotta said the approach nurses and physicians at St. Vincent’s Chilton take with their patients to get information from them is essential to having the best line of communication.

“That goes a long way, and that has been the special thing that I have witnessed since I have worked here,” Culotta said. “This is a community hospital, this is their hospital and I think those relationships are so important.”

That approach will start a strong relationship between the patient, their family and their healthcare provider.