When patients at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center have a concern about the quality of their care, they turn to Lenora Hicks.
Hicks is Kimbrough’s patient advocate. Her sole responsibility is to ensure that “patients get the highest level of patient satisfaction in regard to their health care at Kimbrough,” she said. “I provide a channel through which patients can seek solutions to concerns and unresolved needs.”
Hicks has been the patient advocate for eight years and is the commander’s liaison for patient concerns.
In her position, Hicks said, the most common problem for patients occur in the communication with their health care provider or staff.
“A patient schedules an appointment for a particular concern. The appointment was scheduled in a 15-minute slot. However, the patient would like to discuss other health care concerns during the scheduled appointment,” Hicks said. “That happens a lot.
“When patients schedule an appointment, they should always tell the appointment line staff what concerns they need addressed in that time slot.”
Taking Care of Patients
Hicks sits down with the patient to get a better understanding of the patient’s needs and how she can assist and empower the patient with information resources and a resolution.
“We strive to find ways to say yes,” Hicks said. “I interpret the patient advocate mission, policies and procedures and communicate available resources to the patient and present patient concerns, opinions and needs to the appropriate staff and management to ensure a prompt and efficient resolution.”
If a problem cannot be resolved with Hicks’ help at the clinic level, she then elevates the issue to the Kimbrough deputies and the commander of Kimbrough, Col. Daniel Bonnischen.
“He is very engaged,” Hicks said. “I had a patient who wanted to see the colonel on the spot, and he did not hesitate to come down from his office to hear the patient’s concerns. That meant everything the patient and to me.
“In my position, I represent the commander in safeguarding and ensuring ethical, statutory and the constitutional rights of patients,” she said.
Bonnischen said quality patient care is the first priority at Kimbrough.
“We understand that our sole purpose for being here is to serve those patients enrolled for their care with us,” he said. “Without them, we cannot exist.
“Therefore, it is our goal to deliver good quality care at every opportunity with our patients and also ensure that patients are satisfied with the care they receive.”
Hicks, Bonnischen said, is the right person for the job.
“Ms. Hick’s is a warm, friendly face with boundless energy to help patients solve problems as they navigate the health care system. … [She] does a tremendous job at listening and understanding the patients’ concerns and issues, listening to their perspective.
“Her goal, always, is to resolve the issues so that the patient can progress with their health care,” Bonnischen said
Hicks has worked for the federal government for 30 years. She earned a master’s degree in counseling and served in the Army Reserve.
She began her work in health care advocacy when her husband suffered an aneurysm while serving on active-duty in the Army.
“While he was incapacitated, I had to make a lot of medical decisions with no one to help me navigate through the medical system,” Hicks said. “… Suddenly I was faced with the need for critical assistance and consultation to ensure my husband’s issues were elevated to the appropriate channels to expedite his health care in a timely manner.”
As a counselor, Hicks has worked at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at other military installations throughout the United States and Europe.
Hicks has specialized in many aspects of counseling, such as drug and alcohol addiction, and spousal and child abuse.
“This is something that has always been with me. I love helping people,” Hicks said. “I’m passionate about people and I always try to embrace life.”
To focus on improving patient care, Kimbrough has instituted the Patient Caring Touch System as a higher standard of health care.
“The Patient Caring Touch System is the Army Nurse Corps professional nursing practice model and is used across the entire enterprise,” Bonnischen said. “… The model’s tools and practice are based on clinical best practices and designed to significantly improve our quality [and] safety to drive better patient experiences, reduce variation across the practice of medicine and ultimately reduce patient harm.
“It is a vital part of our journey towards a highly reliable organization.”
The Joint Outpatient Evaluation Systems allows patients to complete a survey after they see their provider.
“It is very important that patients fill out the survey,” Hicks said. “No only does the survey assist us in making improvements, but every returned survey can invest dollars back into patient health care.”
In addition to these tools to improve and monitor patient care, Hicks sends the commander a weekly report of patients’ problems as well as positive feedback.
“There’s always a way for us to improve,” Hicks said. “If we don’t have a process in place, we’ll create a process from our resources.”
Hicks also serves as a member of Kimbrough’s Patient Family Advisory Council, which was established in 2008. The council is made up of Red Cross volunteers who also are Kimbrough patients.
The council is self-governing and operates with its own charter, bylaws and standards. Its mission is to engage patients in their health care.
The council’s members attend various community and Kimbrough committee meetings to provide patient input.
The council meets the third Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2 p.m. on the third floor in the main conference room.
For more information, call Christopher Logas, council director, at 301-677-8261.