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Shortly before the merger was finalized between the Fairview Health System and the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic, both in Minneapolis, representatives from each entity met to determine what the systemwide patient education program should look like.
To uncover what might work best, the committee did a literature review. Also, they selected 20 hospitals from around the country that had reputations of having good patient education departments and conducted telephone surveys. The hospitals selected were those that staff had become aware of through networking or had read about in such publications as Patient Education Management. Their survey questions included:
• How is your department organized?
• How do you work within the entire health care system?
• What is your review process to keep materials current?
• Do you use computer generated materials?
• How do you order materials?
• How do you work with physicians?
"When the interviews were completed, we met for an entire day and went through the responses to determine the best practices. This process gave us some direction for our vision of patient education," says Nancy Goldstein, MPH, patient education program manager at Fairview-University Medical Center. The committee determined the strength of education within its system and the gaps, then developed a proposal on how to best meet the educational needs of patients.
When the committee members disbanded, they not only had a proposal for education, they understood the culture of one another’s facility and had formed a bond, says Goldstein. As a result, blending the education at two institutions became easier.
Participating in the transition planning is very important, says Kathryn Conrad, RN, MSN, AOCN, program leader for cancer education at the University of Pittsburgh (PA) Cancer Institute. Her hospital has been through several mergers, and after the first, she learned that it was important to be involved in the initial transition team planning.
"I am on the initial assessment team for the cancer component. I assess staff education and staff responsibilities on patient education. Following the merger, I know what is in place at each institution and how their system works," explains Conrad.