Department Spotlight: Patient Relations Department

Department Spotlight: Patient Relations Department

Read Time: 4 mins

A well-established Patient Relations department structure and process, supported by the right personnel, is key to identifying gaps between patient expectations and experiences of care and managing perceptions of patient expectations and quality of care (Gilly et al, 1991).

Karen Swanger, patient relations expert, singlehandedly does that for our Sycamore campuses. It is easy to see why Karen is in the position she is—she always has a welcoming smile, and she has a kind and compassionate demeanor and strong interpersonal skills. She acts as a liaison between visitors, physicians, patients, and staff at other Kettering Health Network facilities.

Karen expressed that in her role, you must be able to handle communication difficulties, grievances, and other conflicts. You are a mediator with training to be impartial and uphold confidentiality, and you need to be easily accessible. Our robust patient relations process ensures that patients and their family members have a clearly  identified process and mechanisms to raise concerns about their experiences and feel comfortable providing feedback. The process also provides us with a way to track the quality of our patients’ experiences and to identify opportunities for improvements. Thank you, Karen, for all you to do provide your vital services to our patients and maintain the network’s values. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.

Tell us about Patient Relations at Sycamore. Patient Relations functions as a patient liaison and  representative of Sycamore administration, providing a pathway for patients to seek improved communications and solutions to their concerns. Patient Relations assists departments in interpreting hospital philosophy, policies, procedures, and services to patients, their families, and visitors. We help them to understand the grievance process, safe medical device reporting, and Midas incident reporting processes.

We assist patients and visitors with information and completion of advance directives and notary services. We also maintain all documentation of patient complaints, grievances, requests, and resolutions according to CMS guidelines. We provide direct verbal and written communication including highly sensitive legal and ethical information within all levels of the organization.

Patient Relations covers Sycamore Medical Center, Kettering Health Network Emergency – Franklin, Kettering
Behavioral Medicine Center, Sycamore Primary Care, Sycamore Glen Health Center, and Sycamore Glen Retirement Community.

How many employees work in your department? Patient Relations consists of one patient representative,
which is myself. I report to Jennifer Green, manager of Clinical Quality at Sycamore and Anne Ecklar, risk manager for Kettering and Sycamore.

What are your significant achievements? I was a member of the Institutional Review Board from 2012-2015, and I was Sycamore’s October 2018 Employee of the Month.

What is something you are particularly proud of? I received 689 complaints/concerns in 2018 and 95.49
percent of cases were addressed and closed within 7 days and 100 percent were closed within 30 days.

If you were to create a mission statement for the department, what would it be? Listen, empathize, and
show compassion with action.

What is your favorite quote? I have two quotes. The first is by Charles F. Kettering: “The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” The second is by Mark Twain: “Kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.”

When you don’t work, what do you like to do for fun? I love to read, go antiquing, play with my two Pomeranian puppies, and in the summer, go camping with my family.

How long have you been with Sycamore/the network? I started in the Patient Relations department at Kettering in 1992 as the administrative assistant. In 1995 I transitioned to be a patient representative. After having children, I went part-time and then resource for a few years. In 2011, I became Sycamore’s full-time patient representative.

What is your favorite thing about Sycamore? The employees. Sycamore has such a family atmosphere, and I truly love everyone I get the opportunity to work with. All the managers are respectful and always reply to my requests for information in a timely manner.

What is your favorite part of the job? Interacting with our patients and truly being able to help them with their

Who is the co-worker/employee who can really make you laugh? Sadly, in my position, the interaction with most co-workers is usually due to a serious matter and doesn’t give much chance for laughter. However, I meet weekly with Jeffery Weinstein, MD, our chief quality officer, and he can be quite funny—always making me chuckle.

What’s something we may not know about you? My family means everything to me. I am married to another
network employee, Donald, who is a senior applications systems analyst at the ASB. We have two beautiful children, Shelby (20) and Donnie (18). Shelby is a junior at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in Political Science with ambitions of being a lawyer. Donnie will be joining her in the fall and majoring in Mechanical Engineering. And a fun fact about myself: I am a certified master dog groomer.

March 7, 2019