While Keck Medicine of USC employees have worked hard to ensure the health and safety of patients and of each other during the pandemic, one team in particular has been working to make sure that patients are mentally and emotionally cared for during their stay. As policies have shifted to restrict visitors and reduce the risk of COVID-19 contamination, the Patient and Family Experience team stepped up to the task.

“We are trying to adapt to new ways in connecting to our patients in absence of rounds and other patient experience programs,” said Kaitlin Alderete, MHA, director of Patient and Family Experience at Keck Medical Center. “The no-visitor policy is hitting our patients very hard and is pushing us towards technology and outside-the-box ways of thinking about communication.”

From the beginning of the pandemic, Keck Hospital of USC’s concierge team, part of Patient and Family Experience, formed a partnership with the float pool team to monitor the entrances to the hospital. Following guidelines established by the hospital’s infection control team, the concierge staff helped to screen people coming into the hospital, making sure that potentially sick patients received proper medical attention without infecting others.

“Our day-to-day activities are continually evolving as we know more about the disease itself and the concierge has had to adapt to new roles daily,” said Sandy Alcala, MPH, supervisor of patient and guest relations. Alcala added that, while the team’s core mission is to provide comfort and assistance to patients and their guests, they are always willing to pitch in to keep the hospital functioning at its best.

A collective group of hospital teams, including infection control and leadership, identified the need for screening stations at all entry points to the hospital. Following the guidelines set forth from that group, the concierge team, in partnership with float pool nurse manager Drucilla Aceves, took on the responsibility of facilitating the request in a short amount of time: supplying those screeners with the thermometers, gloves, masks, alcohol wipes and other supplies they need to get the job done.

With 15 screening stations up and running, the team could return to its primary mission of providing aid and comfort to the patients and their guests.

Since the outbreak, they have changed some of their protocols to provide additional comfort. In partnership with social services, occupational and physical therapies and nurse managers, the team has been calling patients who were set to arrive at the hospital to help them understand the measures that Keck Hospital has taken to treat patients in trying times. Understanding that the ending of visitation has increased the worry of many families, they have become a key source of communication between patients and their families.

That barrier also means they now keep their eyes open for loved ones outside the hospital who could use words of comfort, an update on a patient’s condition or a cup of coffee.

And for those patients who now need help to pass the time, Keck Medicine of USC has partnered with the Los Angeles Public Library to offer quick and easy access to the library’s digital content, including ebooks, audiobooks, movies, music and language learning tools. Patients can use Keck Medicine’s library login credentials to access a vast repository of multimedia from a phone or tablet.

Even in the most difficult of circumstances, Alcala said, the concierge team is dedicated to doing whatever it can to help Keck Hospital provide quality service to the patients and their guests.

“The concierge team and patient experience will always be here to help out patients, the guests and the staff,” she said.

— Hope Hamashige