For the past 20 years I have been working on a new model for hospitals called the Healing Hospital™ One reason I came to Sonoma was because I saw a community open to healing in all its forms and ready to embrace this exciting model. Over the past six years, we have made considerable progress in implementing this vision and are now at a point where we can look around and say, this is what a Healing Hospital looks like.
Health care is changing quickly, moving beyond the traditional focus on acute or illness care to a new model that works to keep healthy people healthy, as well as restore patients to good health as effectively and efficiently as possible.
The Healing Hospital model accomplishes this. It’s also a timely response to a number of challenges impacting hospitals today, especially smaller hospitals like ours.
- Shrinking inpatient services with strong growth in outpatient
- Increased emphasis on patient experience
- The move to capitation emphasizing wellness programs and population health
- Increasingly, home-centered patient care
- Employer concern about rising health care costs and staff wellness
What Is A Healing Hospital?
A Healing Hospital, at its core, is about the patient’s experience in the hospital. Patients feel they are in an environment that promotes healing; everyone the patient encounters promotes health and they are treated by compassionate healers.
It’s tempting to say that the model is new, but in a sense it’s a recommitment to the traditional idea of a hospital, one that believes healing is based in the compassionate caring relationship between health care professional and patient. It understands that the role of modern health care technology is to support healing, and not supplant it.
Culture is the catalyst here. It takes a culture change to become a Healing Hospital, and that is the big challenge in implementing this model, because changing a culture is not accomplished overnight. The Healing Hospital depends on a strong culture of health embodied by a staff of compassionate health care professionals, trained in healing and wellness, who are aware of their own health and in turn inspire patients to lead their own healing on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We have found that an important tool in creating this healthy culture is Wellness University™, a six-session health education curriculum developed for people who want to achieve improved health and make good health more contagious.
I’m pleased that all of the SVH Leadership team has participated in this program, as have many of our staff. Last year we opened it to community members who have provided enthusiastic feedback on the experience of becoming Wellness Ambassadors.
Healing Hospital Initiatives
In addition to Wellness University, there are a number of initiatives we’ve implemented both here at SVH and in the community that are integral to a Healing Hospital. Here are examples:
Healing Environment – The hospital environment is planned to support healing through design emphasizing simplicity (low clutter), quiet, relaxing colors, natural light and views of nature.
Wellness Coordinator – This person implements programs to improve staff health as measured by biometrics, stress management, productivity, satisfaction and absenteeism.
Staff Wellness Program – Staff are incented to participate in the wellness program by contributions to their health care costs.
Green Light Foods – A simple, easy-to-understand means to identify and inspire people to make healthy food choices in the cafeteria and on patient menus.
Medical Healers – A program emphasizing holistic practices and noninvasive strategies to help patients reduce stress, alleviate pain, promote sleep and heal on all four levels.
Health Assessments – Assessments are provided patients and their families so they can better understand their state of health and take charge of managing it.
Surgery Experience – Psychological preparation for surgery using guided imagery to reduce anxiety and complications; also used during recovery.
Integrative Health – SVH works with a network of integrative health practitioners to foster a team approach to healing and education using less-invasive approaches to healing.
Home Health – Our nurses and rehab team promote wellness and help create a healing environment for patients cared for in the home.
Green Values – SVH’s Green Team promotes sustainability through conscious procurement and reduction in waste and energy usage.
Community Outreach – We work with community partners – from the Community Health Center, to Vintage House, to our schools — to educate on health and wellness.
There’s much more of course, but this gives you an idea of the scope involved in creating a Healing Hospital and a culture of health in the hospital and community.
As I’ve said, hospitals can find many benefits in this model, which is why there’s so much excitement around it. I’ve been asked to write about it in industry publications and speak at conferences, with excellent response. We’ve also had other hospital administrators visit Sonoma to experience it firsthand.
Ultimately, the Healing Hospital plays an important role in helping the Sonoma Valley become one of the healthiest communities in the country. Our mission is to inspire and support healing here and throughout our community, and becoming a Healing Hospital is an important way we’re accomplishing this. I’m truly grateful Sonoma Valley Hospital has embraced this model.
In good health,
President and Chief Executive Officer
Sonoma Valley Hospital