The art of public service is doing what is best for your clients while being as efficient as possible. Transportation staff at the Oregon State Hospital's Portland (POSH) campus have taken this art to the next level. After years of transporting patients back and forth from Portland to Salem for medical appointments, staff came up with a common sense solution to increase efficiency and, most importantly, improve patient care.
Separated from the hospital's main campus in Salem by nearly 50 miles, staff from Portland spent many hours on the road every week transporting patients to the larger campus for various medical services such as dermatology and eye exams. However, the most common trips were for dental appointments.
"We were driving to Salem three or four times a week just for the dental clinic," said Marie Watson, a transportation mental health aid. "Between driving and the actual appointment, these trips would take up half a day just to get one person to the dentist."
It's no secret that most people don't particularly look forward to going to the dentist, and with more than an hour to sit in the car and dwell on their appointment, patients would often change their mind once they got to Salem. The long trips were also a drain on the hospital's resources, sometimes requiring up to five staff to accompany the patient. This placed a burden on the staff back at the hospital and brought any other patient transport needs to a standstill.
Not only were the constant trips an inconvenience for the hospital and its staff, but the majority of the patients didn't enjoy them either.
"It was such a long drive to the dentist," patient Chloe Cloud said. "What was worse, though, was that most of the time it would take up the whole afternoon, which meant I missed treatment mall for that day. I mean, would you rather go to group or to the dentist?"
For most patients that answer was, hands down, their groups. Missing those groups and other treatment activities was the primary reason most patients would refuse to go to their dental appointments, said Bob Spinouzza, POSH's Transportation and Security manager.
Concerned that many patients did not want to go to the dentist, as well as the cost of constantly traveling to Salem, Spinouzza and his staff approached hospital leadership with a simple solution: Let's use a Portland dentist for POSH's patients.
Transportation staff presented an analysis of every trip they made to Salem during the previous three months. This included the number of staff required for the trip, the number of times patients refused to see the dentist, and the distance and wear and tear incurred by the hospital's vehicles.
After taking these factors into account, hospital leadership gave Spinouzza and his staff the go-ahead to pursue their idea. Spinouzza reached out to several local dentists, and. within a week Wayne Mori, D.M.D., enthusiastically agreed to accept POSH's patients.
Since mid-October, Mori, whose office is located less than a half-mile from the hospital, has been treating the patients several times a week.
"The patients really like the change, and the relationship with Dr. Mori's staff has been perfect," Spinouzza said. "They're very accommodating. Just like all people, our patients have bad days, and Dr. Mori's staff has been extremely flexible if we need to reschedule or want to bring in a different patient at the last minute."
The flexibility of Mori's staff and the easy access to his office has allowed transportation staff to significantly increase the number of patients they're able to get to the dentist every week.
"When we were going to Salem, we could do one appointment a day," Watson said. "Now, we've had days when we've gotten three or four patients to the dentist. It's fast, efficient and we're getting more people to the dentist with fewer people having to miss their treatment."