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More participants sought for Oaklawn's 'Voice of the Customer' project

MARSHALL – Plans continue to take shape at Oaklawn Hospital for the ongoing development of the Voice of the Customer Advisory Council.


“Help from local community members is definitely needed so we can make this effort a success,” said Jane Jones, Oaklawn’s executive director of organizational excellence.


The council is seeking advice from individuals who have visited the hospital at some point, either as a patient with Oaklawn’s various medical services, or as a caregiver or family member.


“We’d like to get their input on a long-term basis, so we can improve how we do things at Oaklawn,” Jones said. “It’s part of a four-year project that’s intended to improve communications between hospital staff and the communities they serve, as well as upgrade the hospital’s services.”


Two years ago, Oaklawn adopted a system-wide process called “lean workflow analysis,” which was systematized originally at the Toyota Corp. in Japan. It did not take long for the system to be  adapted to Oaklawn by the staff to create a “leaner,” more efficiently operated environment.


For example, staff identified areas where Oaklawn had a major opportunity for improving such processes as orthopedic inpatient surgery and Oaklawn Medical Group Primary Care. Major steps were taken in just a short time, freeing up time and space to eliminate waste and errors – all with the goal of improving patient services.


“We saw an opportunity to use the council to enhance what we’re trying to do with the ‘lean’ process,” Jones said. “It’s whole focus is on the customer, after all.”


By identifying specific customer needs, studying the methods used to meet those needs and breaking down the steps involved, those involved in the process are able to analyze how the steps might be better organized to eliminate unnecessary activity, and then design and implement a new procedure.


One of the council’s goals will be to study and enhance Oaklawn’s primary-care services, said Melissa Ryan, Oaklawn’s quality improvement representative and patient advocate.


“It would be interesting to hear from our customers about what they want when they go to their primary-care doctors, instead of us trying to guess what that might be,” she said.


Jones agreed, adding that Oaklawn’s staff hope to learn more about customers may consider to be unnecessary procedures and wasteful activities. Other areas likely to be studied include emergency medical and surgical procedures as well as Oaklawn’s Critical Care Unit and outpatient services provided through the Oaklawn Medical Group.


“We’re looking for people who would be able to spend a little time with us every other month or so, work as a team, share their experiences, provide feedback, respect others’ opinions, and collaborate with other patients and hospital staff,” Jones said.


“As a member of the council, you will make a difference in your health-care experience and share your perspectives and ideas for improving the outcome for patients and their families,” Jones added.


“We want a committee of residents that we listen to, and then build services based on their input,” Jones said. “I would love to have people who have been in, say, a new rehabilitation service to let us now how they would like to see such a service structured.”


“We really are looking for input into how we should design primary care, and if you have ideas about that, we want to hear them,” Ryan said. “You’re exactly the kind of person we want to be involved in this.”


Community members, former patients and others who are interested in getting involved in the council may contact Ryan at or Christy Siebert of Oaklawn’s education services Ryan may be reached at (269) 789-8286 and Siebert at (269) 789-8132.


Application forms are available from front office staff in physician offices at the Wright Medical Building, 215 E. Mansion St., and a drop box is situated in the entrance of the Wright building and the hospital’s main lobby.