Making an Impact

How I Practice: Building patient satisfaction through whole-person care

As a hospital CMO, John Conlon, DO, aims to decrease length of stay and readmission rates while improving patient satisfaction scores.

Increased attention to patient satisfaction through Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) has brought focus to the overall experience delivered by healthcare providers. For institutions to drive up these crucial metrics, effective leadership and teamwork are a necessity. John Conlon, DO, has utilized a philosophy of personal connection with patients to achieve measured results at multiple hospitals throughout his career.

Dr. Conlon was named Chief Medical Officer at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts, last month after serving as Vice President of Medical Affairs at Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, New York. At Putnam, he oversaw decreases in length of stay and readmission rates while elevating the hospital’s HCAHPS scores to the top 10% in the state.

An AOA board-certified emergency medicine physician who served for 20 years as a commander in the United States Naval Reserve, Dr. Conlon spoke with The DO about how his lifelong adherence to a whole-person treatment philosophy helped his organizations attain these goals.

At Putnam Hospital you were responsible for decreasing length of stay and readmission rates. How does a whole person approach to practicing medicine factor into those objectives?

John Conlon, DO

Decreasing length of stay and readmissions requires one to look at the entire picture, not just the specific disease entity. Of course, good medical care goes without saying; however, equally important are patient education, social structure and good communication with the primary care providers outside of the hospital. Osteopathic medicine encompasses the whole picture. When this is practiced, good metrics follow.

During your time there, Putnam Hospital System was ranked in the top 10% of NY institutions for HCAHPS patient satisfaction scores. How were you and your colleagues able to accomplish those levels?

Achieving good HCAHPS is a team effort. You need to have a focused plan to get there. It also requires measuring your efforts and being open to change the plan if a specific item is not working. At Putnam, we broke down the HCAHPS process into specific areas of focus. One of the major areas all hospitals struggle with is “quietness.” We put a great deal of effort into that area, including signage, quiet times during the day where lights were dimmed, but more importantly, we empowered people to speak up and address the issue.

What initially drew you to osteopathic medicine?

My dad was a DO, so I saw up close how the practice of osteopathic medicine could really impact the quality of his patients’ lives. When I was as young as four years old, I would carry his black bag and go on house calls with him. There was a special relationship he had with his patients. Not only did he care about his patients; they also cared about him. It was not uncommon for patients to call during the family dinner, middle of the night, or weekends. He was always there for his patients. Watching him taught me that osteopathic medicine is not just a science, but also an art.

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