What makes the Cardiac Care Center distinctive is its attention to detail in helping patients feel comfortable and relaxed, even before they reach the facility.

“The most important thing is to educate the patients before, during, and after their visit,” says Joseph Stern, regional director of Southern Medical Corporation and one of the driving forces behind the development of the center.

“If patients are made aware of what to expect during their procedure and don’t have to worry about any of the details of their visit, such as how to find us in the city and where they will park, then that plays a big part in easing their apprehension,” agrees director Christine Coyne.

Before their appointment, patients receive in the mail a booklet from the center that includes a map and detailed driving directions from all major routes. They also receive a dashboard pass for an assigned parking spot, along with a reminder of the appointment date and time. The assigned spots are all adjacent to a private elevator that goes directly to the Cardiac Care Center. Thus, the center has taken out all the guesswork about how to get to the facility, in order to ease the worry about driving to downtown Philadelphia to have the catheterization procedure done.

Figure 1. Survey completed by patients who have undergone diagnostic cardiac catheterization at the Cardiac Care Center.

The booklet also explains why the facility was created and why cardiac catheterizations are necessary; defines the terms cardiac cath and peripheral angiography; and describes each step of the procedure, including arrival, preprocedural, and post-procedural routines. Preparations that should have been handled or arranged by the referring physician (blood tests, electrocardiography, chest radiography, consent, and review of possible complications, for instance) are outlined, and a checklist of things to do or not to do beforehand is given.

The patient literature was designed to ensure that it is easy to read and understand. The format is spare so that the look is clean, simple, and not at all intimidating; the sentences and paragraphs are short and concise; and the paper stock is substantial and slightly glossy—a far cry from the hazy photocopied sheets of poorly written information that are so commonly distributed by hospitals and other facilities and often are more confusing than instructive to patients.

Patients also are called the day before they come to the center, as a friendly reminder but also so that the previsit instructions can be reviewed and questions can be answered.

On appointment day, when they emerge from the private elevator, patients are greeted in the reception area, which has a distinctly nonclinical atmosphere. Here the patients’ families can help themselves to refreshments such as coffee, juice, soft drinks, and snacks. This area is also furnished with a business center that features Internet access, data ports, power outlets, and local calling, which is especially helpful for spouses and friends who accompany the patients but need to get work done. Visitors can also relax in the entertainment area, which has cable television, educational materials, and newspapers.

“We want patients and visitors to feel at home, more than they would in a hospital setting,” explains Coyne,  “so they will feel as relaxed as possible but also cared for and confident in the abilities of our staff.” Other special features designed to relieve anxiety are soft music in the catheterization room and an illuminated image of palm trees above the procedure table.

Before the catheterization procedure, a nurse and technician get each patient settled in a private guest room, where they can visit with their companions and watch television or a movie (some patients bring a favorite videocassette from home, but the center has a library of movies). Each room has cushioned stretchers and pillows, a locking bedside cabinet, and a nurse call alarm. Patients are brought back to this room for recovery after being in the procedure room, and the same staff members will attend to them throughout their stay.

“Before they leave that day, patients will know everyone at the center, and the staff members will have gotten to know them and their families,” Coyne says. In fact, it is not unusual for staff members to visit with the Cardiac Care Center clients if they are admitted to Hahnemann Hospital, she reports. “Our facility and staff represent a calming point for patients, and the immense satisfaction that results on both sides proves how important personal interaction is to any treatment process.”

The staff, which includes four nurses and three technicians, handles the diagnostic cases with efficiency but has seen its share of severe and emergent cases as well, says Coyne. “In addition to being personable and caring, they are all quite adept and experienced in a variety of interventions and are ready to handle any type of clinical situation.”

After recovery, the patient meets with their physician in a transition room to discuss the results of the cardiac catheterization and to review any further medical care needed. At this point, they are given a one-page survey to complete, which measures their satisfaction with their experience at the center (Figure 1, page S3). Each survey item response is assigned a numerical value, and scores are tallied at the end of each month.

“Our monthly patient satisfaction rate averages over 99%,” reports Coyne. “We get postcards, letters, gifts, fruiteven home-cooked mealsfrom patients and their families who want to thank us for making their stay as pleasant as possible. And many patients comment that if they ever needed to undergo the procedure again, they would want to return to our center.” Twenty-four hours after the procedure is completed, a staff member calls the patient to check on their status and to address any concerns.

Making the patients comfortable and happy also makes the jobs of the staff members more pleasant. “Because we wanted to make our office environment less clinical, it is inherently low-key, which has a positive effect on the staff as well as the patients,” Coyne explains. “However, because we are focusing on one specialized procedure, we can work at a very fast pace yet very efficiently, which means there is a smooth work flow with fewer frustrations than in a hospital setting.”

Working in a bright, clean, new facility with modern, high-quality equipment and a steady daily case load makes staff positions at the Cardiac Care Center even more desirable, she says. In addition, the staff can count on a predictable schedule with no on-call duty and no weekend or holiday hours, which plays a big role in the center’s high employee satisfaction and retention. “For a medical professional who wants some stability in their schedule (and who doesn’t?) the hours and working conditions are ideal.” 


Seleen Street Collins is a contributing writer for Decisions in Axis Imaging News.