A Story of Transformation: Mercy Health Imaging and Lab Departments in Muskegon Share How They Improved Patient Experience During a Time of Change

As a mission-driven, innovative health organization, Mercy Health is committed to patient-centered care. This fundamental goal spurred Imaging and Lab Patient Services at Mercy Health in Muskegon to be among the first to embrace change and transformation efforts as part of the consolidation work happening at and around the Mercy Campus location.

The team’s work, led by Lindsey Ketner, imaging services manager, and Chris Halberda, non-technical lab manager, has resulted in less registration time and the ability to see more patients in a day. The spotlight of their success is just the first in our series of stories that highlight best practices centered around “engaging colleagues while embracing change.”

Their story of transformation begins here:

In October 2014, Lindsey Ketner and Chris Halberda learned the Mercy Health Pavilion campus at 1150 East Sherman Boulevard would soon have vacant space. The relocation of dental and optometry offices offered them an opportunity they couldn’t pass up – improving outpatient care.

“We wanted to remove outpatient services from the main hospital and relocate them all in one location to help streamline the patient’s medical needs,” says Ketner.

With that vision, Lindsey and Chris got to work. They acquired the existing floor plan and, with pencils in hand, literally sketched their idea for integrating all outpatient services into the available space. Drawing the plan only took a day. Pitching their idea involved several meetings and presentations on how the space would be utilized. By the end of 2015 they got the green light to map out their goal of creating an efficient, one stop, stress free medical facility that included shorter wait times. The plan also included allowing outpatients to have multiple services like lab work, X-rays and CT Scans all in one building.

But Lindsey and Chris’s vision wasn’t just about infrastructure. It was also about streamlining staff. Currently , patients were tended to by each service line. That would mean placing an emphasis on cross-training colleagues.

This was a big change, and Chris was committed to making sure everyone felt included, “We had lots of meetings; transparency is key. I wanted to make sure they (colleagues) had all the information they needed to understand that this is not only going to make our outpatient services better, but also their jobs easier.” And that included asking what was working and what wasn’t and implementing their ideas. The inclusive process helped build excitement about the new space and the new work flow.

Registration and Lab Techs were cross-trained to do both jobs. For example, a nurse who is there to recover a patient may help start an IV for CT or the X-ray tech may come help hold a child for a lab draw, which allowed the Imaging Lab and Outpatient Services to function as a cohesive team.  As a result, Chris says registration times were cut from 10 minutes to two. Patients seen also increased from 150 to 200 a day. Moving Outpatient services away from the hospital environment did something else too: It allowed each tech to focus on one area at a time, providing a better overall outpatient experience.

The process was faster than anticipated – just over two years – from sketch to implementation to re-opening in early January 2017.

It also inspired Chris and Lindsey to keep thinking big while embracing change. “Eventually we’d like to move Hackley Outpatient services over here and also add an EKG.” says Chris.

Chris and Lindsey are excited to share what they learned about helping their team embrace change with the following tips:

Communicate often. Engage with staff and unions as often as possible to provide updates and solicit feedback. Get them involved. And be willing to give options to those who aren’t comfortable with change.

“By doing this our employees got excited about the idea of change. We didn’t want anyone to feel as if this was a take-it-or-leave-it-situation, ” said Lindsey. “We were willing to work with everyone for the most positive outcome.”

Accept the learning curve. Chris says you need to be able to check your ego at the door. It took about four months before we found our “groove.” We made adjustments along the way, but because we had worked hard on our communication with employees in the beginning, we were able to take their advice and implement those changes more quickly and smoothly.”

Be persistent. “This wasn’t an easy process, but it also wasn’t a difficult one.” Lindsey adds, “We didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We went back to our managers four times. In the end they couldn’t say no to an idea that had so much momentum behind it and lived up to the Mercy Health standard of putting patients first.”

Regarding change, Chris said, “Change isn’t achieved in just one step; it’s a process.”