published Friday, August 26th, 2011

Ritz-Carlton giving Erlanger training

by Chris Carroll

Ritz-Carlton is coming to Chattanooga.

Erlanger Health System awarded the hospitality chain a $388,000 contract to reinforce customer service tenets to all 4,500 employees at Chattanooga’s public hospital.

Besides managing luxury hotels, Ritz-Carlton has a Washington, D.C.-based “corporate university” that focuses on bettering employees in all sorts of fields, hospital officials said.

With input from 43 employees, physicians and board members, Ritz-Carlton’s program has become “distinctively Erlanger’s,” according to a hospital-issued news release.

“We’re going to spend some time on why we chose health care in the first place — we’re going to rekindle that passion,” said Lynn Whisman, Erlanger’s chief nursing officer.

In October, a Ritz-Carlton speaker is expected to lead multiple four-hour sessions, each of which will hold 400 employees, hospital officials said.

Last year Erlanger’s publicly appointed board of trustees approved the contract as part of the hospital’s strategic plan, which highlighted “service excellence” as a top priority, officials said.

The hospital seemed eager to brand the program as “not a flavor-of-the-month thing,” as Erlanger President and CEO Jim Brexler put it, but more of a culture change.

Besides medically related training, Whisman said, the speaker will engage the crowd with icebreaker games, along with basic refreshers on everyday interaction. She described the sessions as “very interactive.”

“Most people like eye contact,” Whisman said. “Simple stuff, interpersonal skills that makes a difference. It’s not rocket science.”

Erlanger trustees, who raved about their exposure to the program at Thursday night’s board meeting, allocated an optional $112,000 for future sessions, presumably assuming the first go-round will be successful.

In the news release, Erlanger described the potential $500,000 cost as an investment that “works out to about $106 per employee.”

Hospital officials said Ritz-Carlton prohibited the media from reporting on the sessions, citing proprietary information the hotel chain prefers to keep secret.

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sandyonsignal said...

Just three days ago, the Times Free Press reported Erlanger started out the fiscal year with a $1.3 million loss. You would think they would have better ideas for using money, but then again, consider who is on the board.

This is ridiculous having a 5 star hotel in the tourism industry getting $388,000 for consulting. Do you think people coming into a hospital really care about eye contact or chatty Cathy talking to them? No, they are there for a specific reason and want expert advise not some schmoozer.

If Erlanger wants to improve relations between patients and the hospital, why not use someone like M.D.Anderson Cancer Hospital? That hospital has it down pat on how to treat people with respect, care and compassion. Each patient is given a team of doctors, nurses, social worker and a person dealing with insurance. People are treated with kindness, respect and dignity. Morale is good there and it shows. They have a huge volunteer department because people are grateful for the hospital and want to ensure its success. Most volunteers will tell you, they "want to give back" so others can have the same good care as they did. This is who Erlanger should get for consulting, instead of a hotel chain.


August 26, 2011 at 6:23 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

$388,000 is a lot of payoff to give someone to tell employees to smile or they will be fired. We expect that this is another scam payoff thanks to the Littlefield administration.

Every week local Republicans are abusing tax dollars and the public trust to line their bank accounts in preparation of 2012 elections. Stop their habitual bribes, kickbacks and payoffs. Restore checks and balances. Their unchecked power has corrupted them into behaving like thieves.

Vote Republicans out of office in 2012.

August 26, 2011 at 7 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Absolutely, $328k Website (btw, like your name). Erlanger's board is filled with cronyism and nepotism. Brexler's, new wife is Kelly Fisher, whose dad is Doug Fisher, the PR manager. Dough Fisher used to work for Zach Wamp. He's a hack. Father and son in law work together and are about the same age. There is a great story by Rox Exum on their bonus situation plus the hospital itself, found here: Erlanger's Sick Leadership t

August 26, 2011 at 7:33 a.m.
harrystatel said...

I can't stand the republicans anymore than I can the democrats, but Ward Crutchfield, Charles Love, William Cotton, the Ford family in Memphis all have a big "D" by their name.

Corruption, bribery, and theft is part and parcel of the US political system. No need to go to Washington DC to find it. Look at City Hall, the City Council, the Beer and Wrecker Board, the Election Commission, Erlanger, the Planning Commission, the local judicial system (judges, DA, Court officers including lawyers) and the list of government thieves grows.

For the government to give something to anyone, it had to steal it from someone else first.

As long as the "Party" card is played, the crimes continue unabated.

August 26, 2011 at 8:20 a.m.
alewis28 said...

You two have to be bored or crazy to take this line of thinking after reading an article like this.
Sandy, if you don't think customer service matters, that people are only "there for a specific reason and want expert advise not some schmoozer", then you're sadly mistaken. You go on to mention M.D. Cancer Anderson Cancer Hospital, and how good their customer service is. (So it apparently does matter to you) I've been a patient at Erlanger, and my experience wasn't the best on a customer service side. I received excellent expert care, but the human touch was lacking. I'm happy to hear that Erlanger is taking it seriously. There isn't a finer team of experts in dealing with customer service than the folks at Ritz-Carlton. Erlanger wants to be the best, so they hired the best to train them. Simple as that, and there is nothing wrong with that.
328Kwebsite, Democrats also "abuse tax dollars and the public trust" so quit whining about Republicans only. You're strictly biased opinion is annoying. Erlanger, I'm happy to hear you're taking customer service seriously. Even in Health Care it should be "Ladies and Gentleman, serving Ladies and Gentleman."

August 26, 2011 at 8:27 a.m.
sweetdream20 said...

They need to improve customer service? How can they improve something they don't have in the first place. Hospitals or medical practices should NEVER consider patients as customers. Their focus should be on treating PATIENTS and treating them right, not about how many paying "customers" they can get in the door. Anyone with any long term experience with erlanger has learned that their main focus is the bottom dollar and not quality care. Example: average CHILDREN's ER waiting time is 3-4hrs regardless of the urgent need for care. Knew a guy who had back surgery there and was in a brace. They put him in a room with 1 foot of space between the walls and the bed. It was a modified closet space! He couldn't get out of the bed because of that! A friend of ours delivered their baby at the downtown campus via c-section and she nearly went a full day before the over-work-loaded nurses checked in on her. And then they waste their money in an entirely unfocused direction.

August 26, 2011 at 8:49 a.m.
spendy said...

My mother has been in & out of Erlanger with sometimes long extended stays over the past 2 years & has received nothing but excellent care. We couldn't believe how far Erlanger had come in the way they treat patients compared to the past. I think they're already doing a wonderful job...keep up the good work!!! mother was an indigent care patient with absolutely not a dime to her name & was treated no different than a well-to-do patient.

August 26, 2011 at 9:04 a.m.
sig4ever2 said...

With the rising cost of health care insurance deductibles, going to ANY hospital is like spending money at the Ritz-Carlton. Might as well get a little extra TLC while we are there. Can we expect fluffed up towel figurines, overpriced in-room food bars, warm cookies, and a chocolate mint on the pillow?

August 26, 2011 at 9:36 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

“Most people like eye contact,” Whisman said. “Simple stuff, interpersonal skills that makes a difference. It’s not rocket science.”

They paid $388,000 for this bit of advice that isn't rocket science. Sheesh. I expect losses will skyrocket now. Great going management team. Maybe they should work in the hotel industry instead of the medical sector.

August 26, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.
southerncastist said...

Excellent patient care is more than just the right medicine or the right surgery. Personal relationships, communication, comfort and all the things that go into a patient's experience can be just as important. To deliver a great experience you hire good people and then support them with good training.

So good for Erlanger. I don't want to go to the hospital, but if I need to, its good to know they care enough to train and be prepared.

August 26, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

SandyONSignal said: "Erlanger's board is filled with cronyism and nepotism. Brexler's, new wife is Kelly Fisher, whose dad is Doug Fisher, the PR manager. Dough Fisher used to work for Zach Wamp. He's a hack. Father and son in law work together and are about the same age."

Good grief SandyOnSignal. These are the same names that seem to be at the center of another "contract" controversy that was in the news a few weeks ago. As I recall, it involved Erlanger's decision to fire their longtime security employees and outsource their security services to a company that had close and friendly connections to one of these guys. Anyway, the new “security service” arrangement almost doubled Erlanger’s security costs. Guess I will need to look at Erlanger’s personnel and organizational chart to sort it all out.

August 26, 2011 at 10:30 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

A Lewis you mentioned: "There isn't a finer team of experts in dealing with customer service than the folks at Ritz-Carlton. Erlanger wants to be the best, so they hired the best to train them. "

Do you want someone to fill your ice bucket or are you looking for someone who can handle and treat your disease? There are a whole host of emotions that people go through when they or their loved ones enter a hospital. Most people want honest and informative answers and not a groveling valet. From our own family experience, I can tell you it helps hearing experts talk and having honest, sincere words from the staff. M.D. Anderson won numerous awards. They teach their doctors and researches bedside manners. They are one of the nicest hospitals around and we've been to plenty.

Years ago, when MRIs were on film and not disc, we went to Erlanger for a post op surgery MRI. The MRI had to be done under anesthesia and was an all day ordeal. The staff, radiology and anesthesiology were top notch at Erlanger; still, our film got lost. For ten days, the film sat on the receptionist's desk while folks searched up and down at both TCTCH and MDAnderson. When we finally found it after exasperation and numerous trips down to radiology, I was furious to know it just sat there in a pile at Erlanger. Our neurosurgeon in Houston, calmed me down and joked how film libraries are black holes. This helped the situation a great deal. I doubt you are going to get that type of response from Ritz-Carlton when folks are faced in crisis. My guess is Erlanger will end up in a P.R nightmare or lawsuits for making such a lame selection.

Don't get why Erlanger would spend close to a half a million bucks, especially when they have a deficit in their budget, on something so silly and not even in the health care industry. Be interesting to find out how they arrived at the Ritz for this type of decision.

August 26, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Yes, Mountain Laurel and while you are looking at the organizational and personnel chart, please look at the Brexler/ Fisher family tree, too. ;0

August 26, 2011 at 10:39 a.m.
harrystatel said...

"Puttin' on the Ritz" seems to be Erlanger's style as long as its other peoples money.

August 26, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.

It's great that Erlanger is focusing on how to please their guests/patients/customers. When The Ritz is done at Erlanger, can they go over to City Hall and work on Littlefield and Rico?

August 26, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I agree with sandyonsignal and harrystatel...silly to spend this amount of money for a hotel chain to come in here and train people how to behave and communicate with people...Ridiculous!

M.D. Anderson was wonderful to my father-in-law when he went out there for throat cancer. They called me several times to keep me updated with his treatment and after he passed away 2 years later they called me again inquiring about him. I was truly impressed. They couldn't have been any nicer. Sandyonsignal is right..Erlanger should take their lessons from M.D. Anderson.

Harrystatel is also right about the "crooks" running the asylum IMHO!...and I agree with the names he named...I used to live in Memphis and the Fords where ALWAYS in the paper...and not in a good way either! I'm just glad Memphis FINALLY got their fill of them!

and the Crutchfields are no saints either...

August 26, 2011 at 12:01 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

SandyOnSignal said: “From our own family experience, I can tell you it helps hearing experts talk and having honest, sincere words from the staff. M.D. Anderson won numerous awards. They teach their doctors and researches bedside manners. They are one of the nicest hospitals around and we've been to plenty.”

I agree, SandyOnSignal. My family’s experience with Erlanger’s medical staff has been positive. Indeed, if Erlanger's Board is truly looking for ways to improve the hospital, I can think of a variety of "legitimate" ways to accomplish this. For starters, Erlanger's Board could use the money to hire additional nursing staff for the cancer ward, especially on the weekends. I would also suggest purchasing small refrigerators for the patient rooms in Erlanger's cancer ward. A portion of the money could also be used to expand Erlanger's cancer resource center. As I recall, they only had one staff member struggling to meet the needs of their cancer patients, the community at large, and the families of cancer patients.

August 26, 2011 at 1:27 p.m.
heneh said...

This is very simply and doesn't cost anything. "Do unto others the way you want them to do unto you." Just teach them that and be done with it.

August 26, 2011 at 2:06 p.m.
sweetdream20 said...

@spendy and southern... All I can say is from my personal experience and what I have directly witnessed. I delivered both children at Women's East. 1st was an emergency cesarean. I was given 0 pain medicine post surgery other than the standard 24hr morphine given during surgery. Then I had a horrible reaction to the morphine and threw up continuously for the next 24 hours not counting the itching rashes. Then they refused all food for 96 hours because they mistakenly assumed I had a partial elias (spell?) without consulting a Dr! My doctor was very upset to learn these details and the lack of proper treatment. Because of insurance I was back for the 2nd c-sec. They "lost" some of my patient records, I was given the wrong instructions for post care, and was pretty much abandoned until shift changes their apologies they were shorthanded. Not as bad as the first visit but definitely not up to par. My son was 3 or 4 years old. He had an asthma attack. He was on an inhaler but we couldn't get his breathing under control - he was having extreme difficulty breathing and was turning pale. Per his doctor's instructions we rushed him to the ER for breathing treatment. 3-4 frustrating hours later he was finally brought to a room and promptly "seen" and dismissed. No treatment. My 6 month old daughter had 105 temp that refused to go down even with Tylenol/Ibuprofen and cold baths. Again per Dr instructions we brought her to the ER. Again 3-4 hours later she was "seen" and sent home. The ER doctor said we were silly to bring her in with less than 107 temperature, that anything less than that was NOT an emergency. What southern... said is true. Patient care is not just about right medicine and right treatment. But comfort and understanding. What I am saying is that they're lacking in the most essential area - quality patient care. Viewing patients as paying "customers" is not a step in the right direction. I'm not saying everyone who works there is lacking in their performance, but that the system itself does not promote good quality care. As an employee who you know or how much money you make / cost them is how their system works. If you want to promote good "patient" relations then you consult patient opinions, get a psychologist or therapist to work with the employees in understanding their patients. The ritz is used to customers who want nice bubble bath shampoos in their suite, they're NOT used to helping people with sudden life-changing medical conditions or circumstances. It's a waste, pure and simple.

August 26, 2011 at 2:21 p.m.
harrystatel said...

Appears like Erlanger management has been financially trained by Bernanke, Keynes, and the "Tooth Fairy."

Erlanger—why hospitals should be privatized.

August 26, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Harrystatel said: "Appears like Erlanger management has been financially trained by Bernanke, Keynes, and the "Tooth Fairy." Erlanger—why hospitals should be privatized."

You seem to be forgetting that Bernanke and Keynes do not represent the non-profit sector. They represent the for-profit business sector and we know what this means in regard to the bottom line. It’s why Erlanger’s cost for security services doubled when the Board voted to outsource the hospital's security services to a for-profit security company.

August 26, 2011 at 5:43 p.m.
harrystatel said...

Economics is the same whether for profits or non-profits.

Bernanke and Keynes are the perfect example. Just print money and take from those that earn it to give to those who don't.

Erlanger operates on that same principle. The Erlanger Board gets paid whether it does a good job or bad job.

In a free market, consumers are king. They vote with their money. If the consumer doesn't like Erlanger they can decide to go elsewhere.

Erlanger would be forced by the market to compete for dollars by offering what customers want or go out of business.

August 26, 2011 at 5:57 p.m.
ceeweed said...

It's all about P.R. and it is not just Erlanger...Nurses are over worked and laden with enormous amounts of paper work... Joint Commission of Hospital Accreditation demands more and more redundant documentation...Standards of Care are very important but a lot of it is bunk. Nurses are made to take care of more patients than they can handle and with the all the mandatory paper work, patients suffer, staff gets burnt out, and administrators act oblivious. So, yeah, look your patient in the eye and smile when you explain why you took two hours to answer their call bell. Maybe your patient will understand that you've worked over 12 hours, had few if any breaks, and left your shift most nights knowing that your patients deserve better. Alas, if only the administration understood!

August 26, 2011 at 9:26 p.m.
lawstudent43 said...

If there is one place in Chattanooga that needs to go through charm school, it's Erlanger. When I was giving birth and was in labor there and crying in pain, the nurse told me repeatedly to shut up and get over myself. When I worked there in Medical Records, I finally had to quit because of the blatant, cruel reverse racism I received. I was taken there a couple of weeks ago from a back injury, and the ambulance driver had to tell some male nurse there to stop making fun of me. Erlanger stinks, but I'm glad they're starting to admit they have people problems because boy do they!

August 26, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Usually when people talk about Keynes in Economics, they are referring to the author who published works in the 1900s. Many of his books were published before 1936.

I take it that y'all don't know who he is, as you seem to be referring to him as someone who is alive today. He died in 1946.

You may want to look up his book, "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money." It relies heavily on laissez-faire economics. Keynes' theories only apply when special situations exist. They explain why there appear to be gaps in traditional laissez-faire economics; they are not a substitute for it.

Perhaps Glen Beck or Fox News failed to mention that.

One such special situation that may exist now is involuntary unemployment; particularly, involuntary unemployment caused by a direct and willful refusal to hire because employers know that they have far more fraud on their books than has been seen so far.

The market will take care of the fraudsters.

--Alan Greenspan to Brooksley Born.

August 27, 2011 at 12:07 a.m.
ex_army65 said...

You guys are not making sense with your comments. you start off by saying that it's stupid for Erlanger to go through customer service training and then go on to relate a story of how Erlanger gave you less than excellent customer service when you were there. Could it be that Erlanger has recognized the need to improve their service to people, therefore the initiative? Don't you think if it was as easy as just saying "hey, you guys need to be nice" EVERY place of business would be able to do this? From the article, this place has over 4000 people employed which means 4000 different personalities that see customers (yes, customers. if you give service and take money for it, that person is your customer, whether its health care, groceries, cars, or lemonade. May not be the best term to use, but it is correct)so why wouldn't they want to try to get all 4000 on board with how they want customers treated? The fact that they are trying to turn a culture around after all these years should be a positive thing since it takes so much to recognize that the culture isn't good as it stands. And if that's the case, whats wrong with having the people most recognized in customer service help you do this? Whether its a hotel chain or a hospital doesn't have anything to do with how a person is treated. Ritz isn't coming in telling them how to do surgery. And anyone who's been in the hospital knows, they have enough fear on their mind with WHY they are there, they don't need the stress of worrying about how they are treated WHILE they are there.

August 27, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.
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