Our Patient Care Model, A Quality Innovation

When Myrna Allen was hired as Chief Nursing Officer at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH), she didn’t realize that she was about to embark on the career opportunity of a lifetime.

“We were sitting in the old Interns and Residents Building on the MLK Campus—we didn’t even have access to the hospital yet—and we agreed that we didn’t want to recreate what didn’t work before,” Allen, a veteran nurse, explains about an early meeting she had with Dr. Medell Briggs-Malonson, Senior Medical Director of Quality at MLKCH.

Allen and Dr. Briggs-Malonson set out to design a new way to care for hospital patients. “We’ve been able to build a whole new approach here,” Allen says.

“We came in with a clean slate, no infrastructure, no corporate superstructure. That doesn’t happen very often—almost never,” Dr. Briggs-Malonson adds. “We wanted to bring in nothing but data-driven best practices… the best we’d seen at other facilities.”

What works best for an underserved community?

In their plan, Allen and Dr. Briggs-Malonson took into consideration the social determinants of health services.

“We have a critical shortage of clinicians and primary caregivers in this underserved community. We knew we’d need a different model, one that could support the patients while they’re in the hospital and after they leave,” says Dr. Briggs-Malonson. “We knew we’d need to build above and beyond what other traditional models normally offer.”

Hospital size—131 beds—was also a factor in the call for a different care management model. “We wanted to make sure we’d have the same level of care here as what patients experience at larger facilities,” Dr. Briggs-Malonson says. The need for innovative solutions was practical, and urgent.

“We knew we’d need a different model [at MLKCH], one that could support the patients while they’re in the hospital and after they leave. We knew we’d need to build above and beyond what other traditional models normally offer.”—Dr. Medell Briggs-Malonson, Senior Medical Director of Quality at MLKCH

It’s the patient that counts

Dr. Briggs-Malonson and Allen concluded that a core, coordinated group of caregivers would be needed to manage patient care. This would help physicians, nurses, administrators, and—most importantly—the patients and their families.

When patients enter MLKCH, each one is assigned by floor to one of five care managers, all former RNs.

Care coordinators serve as support to the care management team, making patient follow-up appointments, coordinating discharge information, and connecting patients with resources they need in their transition. This enables the managers to spend as much time as possible on patient needs.

Two units—the Emergency Department (ED) and Newborn and Infants (NBI)—are staffed with care managers 24/7—another MLKCH process innovation.

“Patients and their families have been very happy to have this key contact in addition to the primary nurse. It’s one more person who can apprise them of what’s going on and what to expect,” Allen says, referencing results from patient satisfaction surveys given to every patient who leaves the hospital.

As for acceptance outside the South Los Angeles community, the new model is now being explored by hospital administrators and physicians from across the country, many visiting to see for themselves how things are working.

“We’ll continue to perfect those areas that need fine-tuning as we go along,” concludes Allen. “It’s still a work in progress. But it’s a model that’s working, and one we’re proud of.”