By Odetta James-Harlee
Supervisor, Patient Advocacy
The Patient Advocacy Department, previously known as the Patient Representative Department, was formed in 1988 in response to state regulations requiring that all Maryland hospitals have a formal program for addressing patient complaints. Since that time, the Joint Commission and CMS have implemented more standards requiring formal complaint mechanisms and have focused on greater attention to patient rights. Even without mandates, a patient advocacy process is beneficial to improving public image, improving quality of care, improving service and reducing risk.
Under the previous system, two patient representatives responded to all patient concerns in the Medical Center’s inpatient units as well as outpatient clinics. The patient representative operated more on a reactive basis and was known as the Medical Center’s “firefighter” instead of one who could educate staff about preventing these “fires.” In 2002, the Medical Center recognized the need for change and the Patient Advocacy Department was formed as a result of new customer service initiatives. We were finally able to take a more proactive approach to identifying any patient or family need.
Patient Advocacy functions have evolved somewhat since the establishment of the department; however, primary objectives and responsibilities have always been to provide prompt response to patient concerns, investigate these concerns by channeling information about patient care issues to appropriate departments and services so that corrective action can be taken and changes in policies and procedure can be made when indicated, and trend and report this data to senior leadership. The patient advocate has always been able to serve as that neutral link between the patient and the Medical Center. With assistance from physicians, nursing, and department managers, we are able to resolve concerns that include lack of communication, rude behaviors, long wait times and missing belongings.
In 2006, two medical interpreter positions were added to the Patient Advocacy Department. We currently have one Spanish interpreter who provides interpretation services to help providers communicate with their non-English and Limited English Speaking patients and are recruiting for the second open position.
Since the department has grown, in addition to working with patients to resolve concerns, we are able to assist patients and families with their requests for hotel accommodations, obtain consents from living related kidney donors for recognition on the Wall of Honor located in the Medical Center, serve on the UMMC Commitment to Excellence’s Patient Experience Team, the Shock Trauma Patient Education committee and Surgical Intensive Care Unit Supportive Care Initiative committee. Advocates rotate coverage of the interpretation pager, carrying it 24 hours a day to ensure that our deaf and LEP patients receive the sign and language interpretation they need.
To contact a patient advocate, please call:
- 410-328-8777 or 410-328-7536 for main hospital, outpatient clinic, and general concerns
- 410-328-1531 for Shock Trauma concerns
- 410-328-2131 for Adult/Pediatric Emergency Room concerns
- 410-328-2337, id # 8255 for interpretation requests