Victoria Meyer, 39, barely had time to sip her water before her ride pulled up outside 45 Francis St.
Within about 10 minutes of arriving at the Inpatient Departure Lounge, Meyer was ready to go home. The brief time she spent in the lounge — which is stocked with snacks, beverages, tablets, magazines, comfy chairs and other amenities — was a welcome respite after her recent hospitalization for epilepsy.
“It was nice getting coddled a bit after being stuck in a hospital bed for two weeks,” she said. “I felt welcomed. It was really a lovely transition. Honestly, had I known it was going to be such a nice sendoff, I would’ve held off on calling the Lyft so soon. That was the best discharge experience I’ve ever had.”
One of several initiatives developed to address the hospital’s capacity challenges, the Inpatient Departure Lounge opened in March with the goal of creating a patient-centered discharge process for all eligible inpatients being picked up by loved ones and caregivers or using the VPNE Care Van. Originally launched on a pilot basis with a handful of units, the lounge is now open to all inpatient units and recently surpassed its 700th patient served.
Every detail of the lounge — which is also equipped with a variety of specialized seating, hearing amplifiers, assistive devices and interpreter services — was designed to create an inviting, convenient and safe experience for patients and families as they leave the hospital, said Laura Smith, MD, senior medical director of Clinical Operations.
“A tremendous reason why the lounge has been successful is that it was developed with the right strategy: collaboration,” Smith said. “As a team, we worked together to create an experience centered on how patients would want to spend the last part of their hospital stay.”
A key attraction of the Departure Lounge: location, location, location.
Instead of navigating the hustle and bustle of the main entrance, family and friends who are picking up a patient from the Departure Lounge can drive up directly to 45 Francis St. and do not need to pay for parking. Patients are also able to see exactly when their ride arrives due to the lounge’s location, which features large windows looking out into the plaza. Drivers don’t even need to get out of their car; they can inform the valet whom they’ve come to pick up, and a lounge ambassador will assist the patient to the vehicle.
The team tracks various metrics for each discharge to the lounge. On average, patients using the Departure Lounge leave their hospital room 90 to 120 minutes faster than patients undergoing a conventional discharge, said Mark Galluzzo, MHA, lead process improvement consultant for Analytics, Planning, Strategy and Improvement.
“It can be so hard to coordinate a ride. Having the Departure Lounge made things go much smoother,” one patient shared in a feedback survey. “When I was discharged before, I would spend so much time just sitting in my room or waiting in a lobby alone before getting picked up. The Departure Lounge is a more thoughtful approach.”
The experience left a similar impression on another patient.
“The lounge was so much better — way less hectic than the 75 lobby,” they shared. “All my husband had to do was pull up to 45, and I was brought out to him by the nice ladies in the lounge.”
Feedback like that is an immense source of pride for Lynne O’Mara, PA-C, senior administrator of Inpatient Operations, who works closely with unit staff to support discharge workflows.
“It’s been incredible to see this work come together with high engagement from our staff, and its impact on our patients,” O’Mara said. “I am deeply grateful to our nurse directors, front-line champions, workgroup members and leadership team who have worked hard to make this possible.”
Patient and staff feedback have continued to play an important role in enhancing the lounge since its launch.
“With collaboration from various departments and feedback from patients, we were able to add a few additional items to the lounge early on,” said Jeremy Freitas, MBA, senior manager of Inpatient Services. “Adding a walker and a hip chair to assist patients are just a few suggestions that came from clinical staff and patient feedback that have made for a better patient experience.”
‘Your New Friend’
Upon their arrival at the Departure Lounge, patients are greeted by two warm, kind and gregarious lounge ambassadors: dana-Simone Furey and Crystal Echevarria.
“Though my official title is ambassador, I’m really just a buddy — your new friend who is here to spoil you until your ride comes,” Furey said. “I know not everyone is comfortable being doted on, so I like to tell patients, ‘Thank you for letting me help you today.’”
Furey, who started her career at the Brigham seven years ago as a patient transporter, described her approach as delivering customer care, not customer service. For her, that translates into using empathy and intuition to sense what would make patients most comfortable during their brief time in the lounge.
“Some patients come in and want to take that moment to decompress and be by themselves, while others open up and want to chat. For me, it’s about going with the flow and making sure they know whichever option they choose is totally fine,” Furey said. “It’s really important to me that patients feel they can make their own choices and that we are available for those conversations, as opposed to just saying, ‘What’s your name and MRN?’”
For Meyer, the compassion and personalized care she experienced in the Departure Lounge mirrors her experience with the Brigham as a whole.
“I have received the best health care at the Brigham that I’ve ever received, and I’ve been seeking neurological care since I was 2 and a half years old,” she said. “The guidance I’ve received from my neurologist, Dr. Paula Voinescu, has been life-changing.”
Furey said she feels privileged to contribute to patients’ experience at the Brigham and to leave them with a lasting impression of compassionate care.
“I may not be the person who conducts CPR on you, but I can hold your hand as you leave,” she said.
Many Perspectives Contribute to Lounge Success
The Inpatient Departure Lounge may occupy a small space in the 45 Francis St. lobby, but it represents a much larger collaboration.
The new lounge builds on a previous concept, known as the Hospitality Lounge, and took inspiration for areas to improve based on a successful model at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We are grateful to our colleagues at MGH, who shared valuable insights from their VPNE lounge, highlighting what our patients gain from system collaboration,” said Laura Smith, MD, senior Medical Director of Clinical Operations.
Alex Machajewski, MSN, RN, CNL, nursing director for Orthopaedics on Braunwald Tower 12BC, participated in the workgroup that shaped the discharge process. His unit was one of the first three to pilot use of the lounge, and he remains excited about its potential going forward.
“I think it has been an empowering process for the nursing staff. The lounge has shown to reduce our length of stay by almost two hours, and it has received very positive feedback from the patients as well as the staff,” he said. “I don’t see any cons to it, especially in a world where we need to improve patient throughput.”
An important contributor to the new lounge’s success has been shared ownership and partnership across multiple disciplines, said Lynne O’Mara, PA-C, senior administrator of Inpatient Operations.
“Our front-line providers — physicians and advanced practice providers — are critical to the discharge process, and their input has been highly valuable in both the design and operation of the Departure Lounge,” she said. “PAs and NPs, for example, are experts in hospital workflow and unit operations, which makes their contributions to process design imperative. Front-line providers identify patients ready for discharge, communicate with nursing colleagues about discharge timing and orders — all crucial steps in the Departure Lounge pipeline.”