Improving patient experience one project at a time

Improving patient experience one project at a time

Recently North Suburban Medical Center expanded their Emergency Department and Lobby and are now in the process of renovating Women’s Services and the Intensive Care Unit to accommodate the growing community. We spoke with Tim O’Brien the Chief Operating Officer who manages both clinical and non-clinical departments at North Suburban Medical Center. He explains how the expansion has dramatically improved overall experience from patients to staff & physicians.




Q. What were the primary reasons the hospital decided to expand/renovate?

A. There were a few things; one our closest competitor was relocating their facility. So we anticipated increase volumes in our emergency department. They were leaving open a freestanding emergency department but our EMS agencies in the area generally transport patients to emergency departments that have inpatient beds on campus so we certainly anticipated and did experience significant EMS, Ambulance volume growth since our competitor moved in March 2015.

Q. What kind of challenges was your staff facing prior to the renovation, in the previous working environment?

A. The lobby was relatively small so with the renovation we expanded the size of the lobby and modernized the feel. It was certainly outdated and it being the first impression for our patients and visitors it was important for us to make those changes, as well as for our staff and employees. Renovated the corridors of the first floor with new flooring, new paint, new LED lighting which made a very large impact. You can sense the appreciation from our staff for the investment. Challenges from the lobby perspective the size and overall feel was not the most welcoming. With the renovation we were also able to build and incorporate a waiting room for our surgical services. So we have a separate room that’s comfortable for visitors and family members who are waiting for patients to complete their procedures. Also a smaller impact we were able to add a coffee shop. We had a coffee cart previously but we were able to contract with a local vendor to open and run a coffee shop as well as a gift shop that has been well received. Challenges from the ED perspective capacity was the biggest challenge we were facing with a 30 bed emergency department. We’ve since moved to a 40 bed. That capacity challenge really had a major impact on our patient experience. There were longer wait times for the patients, a longer length of stay while they were being treated within the emergency department and that was definitely seen in our patient experience scores. Since the expansion those scores have improved dramatically.

Q. When it comes to your patient experience, what’s most important to you and your team?

A. High quality care is number one, exceptional experience for everyone and a quick and efficient encounter for the patient.

Q. How important is your work environment and technology in terms of the ability to deliver high quality patient care?

A. I would say very important. Next to our patient experience, I think what we were able to design from the work environment, we were able to incorporate our staff in the design work so we were able to design improvements from a work-staff perspective that are helping them, as well as from a technology perspective as far as where we have work stations for our nurses, technologist, and registrars. They determined having case work in this location was helpful, placement of the copy machine, how best to optimize the work space we incorporated the front line staff in that process which proved very helpful.

Q. Have you received any feedback from your patients or families, if so, what have they shared?

A. Certainly operational metrics have improved in terms of the patients’ length of stay in the emergency department. We also look at hold hours in the emergency room so how long patients are waiting to go upstairs to an inpatient bed there’s been improvements there. Overall the patient throughput is much more efficient.

Q. Do you think the new facility is helpful in recruiting medical professionals to join your team?

A. In terms of recruitment I think it has helped in the medical department both nursing and physicians. Specifically for the pediatric population as some of the new beds we’ve added are pediatric dedicated so it’s definitely helped in that department.

Q. What do you like most about the space?

A. The functionality of the space works extremely well. We also incorporated an internal waiting room which we’re able to utilize to both improve the patient experience and decrease the length of stay for patients. So we’re able to see more patients when the internal waiting room is functioning properly.

Q. What other projects do you have going on at North Suburban Medical Center?

A. We are converting to a labor delivery recovery and postpartum where the mom would deliver and recover in the same room. The new Birth Center was designed around single-room care, so that mom and baby are not separated during the birth experience. We are excited about finishing the project up this summer. Last week we started a new project which is building a new Intensive Care Unit. A 12-bed ICU unit as well as some shell space for future expansion of our ancillary services.  Ultimately the new space will mean we can continue to provide our excellent standard of care to more patients in need of critical care.

To learn more about North Suburban Medical Center visit



One thought on “Improving patient experience one project at a time

  1. Great story Rachael. Excellent job in conveying the message of the people we are working for and what is driving projects!