Quality Improvement Manager Sue Rice

Empath Health Quality Improvement Manager Sue Rice

We all want good health care. To feel like the people who are taking care of us are competent and caring. To feel like they’re meeting our needs.

Overseeing the quality of care and services at Empath Health is quality improvement manager Suzanne “Sue” Rice, RN, CHPN in the department of organizational excellence. During National Healthcare Quality Week this week, Sue discusses her longtime work in health care, what patients expect with their healthcare experiences and her team’s mission to ensure exceptional customer service across the Empath Health network.

Q&A with Sue Rice on quality:

1. What’s your healthcare background?
My start was in critical care. Then I did one year of hospice care in England and joined Suncoast Hospice in 1994. I’ve served in several positions at Suncoast Hospice including a case manager for a care team and the care center mid-Pinellas, a trainer and director of admissions practices for the admissions department, and a quality advocate.

2. What are your credentials?
I’m an RN (registered nurse) and I’ve held the CHPN (certified hospice and palliative nurse) certification for the last 16 years.

3. What did you do as quality advocate?
That position spoke to me because I got to look at quality through the eyes of our patients and families. I developed a patient experience training now used during our welcome week orientation for new staff. I also worked with our care centers, which provide 24/7 care for pain and symptom management, to understand the driving forces behind the best patient experiences.

4. What’s your charge as quality improvement manager?
It’s an exciting time for quality at Empath Health. Our scope is expanding and we’re measuring quality of patient safety and care with a vision of no defects for all our care organizations.

5. Who’s on your team?
My team includes healthcare analytics specialist Scott Drummond and quality advocates Elizabeth “Liz” Whitehurst, RN, a former care team manager, and Lauren Ringuette, who has extensive experience in quality and consensus improvement. We analyze our scores so we can drive improvements. We also partner closely with Laura Mosby, organizational integrity director in our department, who oversees compliance and is helping take us to the next level.

6. What top characteristics do people seek in health care?
People have changed in what they look for in health care. They look for not just diagnosis and treatment, but an intimate, respectful relationship. They’re complex individuals with families and lives, and they need to feel cared for.

7. What top characteristics do people seek in hospice care specifically?
Hospice patients want kind, gentle and respectful care that addresses their whole physical, emotional and spiritual pain and suffering and helps their families. Professionalism, compassion, communication and care coordination are big on their lists.

8. How do you measure and improve quality at Empath Health?
There are many areas of measurement with our hospice, home health and PACE programs for regulatory compliance. We also plan to measure the voices of our ASAP clients through surveys.

With Suncoast Hospice, we’re using a new CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey for families, which is in alignment with other healthcare providers. Deyta Analytics collects and compares our survey scores to other hospices nationally; Suncoast Hospice is above our current available benchmark in two important measures: “Would you recommend this hospice to your family and friends?” and “Overall rating of hospice care”. We also report regularly on screening for pain and other quality indicators with patients during all admissions, deaths and discharges.

We continuously monitor the safety of patients, such as falls, medication dispensing and other potential risks. If there’s anything of concern, we’ll do process improvement projects. It’s also important that we hear from our care partners in the community. We currently survey physicians and nursing home staff and have future plans for surveying assisted living facilities and case managers. We look at how we can best partner with them on a professional level as well as providing care to our patients.

With any quality improvement, we want to make sure our customers feel our efforts.

9. How do you share quality improvement projects with staff?
One of the communication tools we have is an internal website (intranet). We have a special section dedicated to share our projects. It’s a type of social network that helps connect and motivate us. Everyone can join in and see our areas of focus and subject matter experts.

10. How does Empath Health address quality issues with customers?
Our customers always are welcome to tell us about our care and service. We now have a new customer experience form that captures their overall customer experiences and enables us to provide meaningful reporting.

11. Why is it valuable to listen to customers’ voices?
We need to understand our customers’ experiences. I’m passionate about receiving their feedback; it really is a gift that I can learn from. If we do have a complaint, we need to address it.

12. What type of customer service can people expect from Empath Health?
People in our community can expect that we’ll listen to them, meet their individual needs and give respectful communication. They’re the drivers of their decision making. Whether they’re our patients, care partners or other customers, we will listen.

Want to learn more about the services of Empath Health? Call anytime at 727-467-7423 or fill out an online request.