How NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division Implemented a Transformational Patient-Centric Model for Behavioral Health

For more than 120 years, NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division has served psychiatric patients as a part of the NewYork-Presbyterian health system. The hospital implemented the goals of cultivating great patient experiences, improving the environment and increasing quality benefits. They did this by increasing staff engagement, strategically applying data from families and patients, and increasing community outreach.

The hospital found that it could bring about significant improvement by drastically changing the way they operated, by doing things like surveying clinicians and staff, and partnering with patients and their families for valuable feedback. Using Planetree’s construct for person-centered excellence, NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division has evolved to become a leader in person-centered behavioral health care.

NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division is the first behavioral health hospital in the world to be formally named by Planetree International Inc. as a “Gold Certified Person-Centered Hospital.” Planetree provides healthcare organizations across the continuum of care with a plan, a process, and the construct for caring needed to join the vanguard of the person-centered excellence revolution. All of these steps lay a pathway to Certification —  a mark of achievement, of quality, of commitment to patients, family, and the community.

The Path to Excellence in Person-Centered Certification

In 2003, NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division began working with Planetree. The process began with a visit to Griffin Hospital, a Planetree Certified organization in Connecticut.“We were extremely wowed,” said Dr. Philip Wilner, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Westchester Division. There was something different at Griffin that the visitors from NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division noticed. It was the patient-centric atmosphere.“There was a peacefulness I felt when I walked in,” said Dr. Philip Wilner.

At Griffin, open medical records already existed, which was shocking, but appealing to the visitors. They noticed that patient floors were arranged differently with a noticeable lack of barriers between patients and staff, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

For NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division, the path to personcentered excellence using Planetree’s model returned them to their roots. The campus, on over 200 acres of land with big windows and lots of light, had a model that emphasized “moral treatment”.

Putting Person-Centered Culture into Practice

For NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division, many of the hospital’s most successful initiatives have come from staff members, along with local community through the Patient and Family Advisory Council, an internal group created for the benefit patients and their caregivers. Drawing on families’ knowledge about their loved ones’ health, psychiatric history, barriers to treatment and recovery, the hospital invited family members to become Care Partners. The goal was to provide validation to families by respecting their expertise and experience and to actively involve them in decision making. By enlisting families as knowledgeable experts in their loved ones’ struggle with mental illness, the Care Partner Program has provided help to overcome barriers to treatment and has offered hope for continued recovery.

In addition, the hospital hosts two community advisory meetings per year, at which community leaders learn about hospital initiatives and provide valuable feedback. Members include representatives from city agencies, partner organizations and community neighbors. At these meetings, new innovations are discussed, and attendees have the opportunity to speak, so that they can suggest how the hospital might be able to help them.

Person-Centered Care Outcomes

Since implementing a transformational patient experience model at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Division, the hospital leads the other campuses in both employee engagement and culture of safety.

“It’s remarkable,” said Dr. Wilner. “Our employee engagement is the highest in the system, a system that has over 25,000 employees.”
- Dr. Philip Wilner
, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer  of the Westchester Division

Engagement is high, and a point of pride. Significant progress has been made in ensuring employees have conversations about their progress. Clarity around expectations and access to materials needed is strong.

Although many hospitals don’t bother to survey patients, NewYorkPresbyterian Westchester Division has found that action to be a  key differentiator.

“In the beginning, everyone was skeptical about whether you could survey patients,” said Dr. Philip Wilner. “They have difficulty concentrating, can be psychotic, and are often very sick nowadays if they’re in the hospital. But we learned quickly that those surveys were meaningful. Everyone keeps asking what’s happening in Westchester. I tell them Planetree.”

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