I once asked legendary healthcare publisher and speaker Chuck Lauer who the most inspiring figure he met in healthcare was. He answered Eddie Eckenhoff. It’s easy to see why.
Eckenhoff is founder and president of the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Washington, D.C. A paraplegic since a 1963 auto accident, Eckenhoff is at the forefront of efforts to enhance the quality of care provided to patients undergoing rehabilitation. He led the creation of the New Value Process, a loyalty program that draws inspiration from Disney’s model customer relations efforts. By creating a culture of excellence at the NRH, Eckenhoff and his team members are cutting the average length of stay, making the rehabilitation process seamless for patients and their families and delivering optimal outcomes at discharge.
Consider this: The average length of stay in a rehabilitation hospital has changed from as long as four months to an average of 30 days. A lot of activity is now packed into that short time period, including three to 4 ½ hours of intensive therapy every day. Within 24 hours of arrival, the patient’s team – including the physician, rehab nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech/language pathologist when needed, rehabilitation engineer and neuropsychologist – is in place and a discharge date established. That is the culture of patient care he has created.
In a recent interview for the Alter+Care Podcasts on Healthcare, Edward Eckenhoff says that a patient arriving at the NRH likely will have been assured by the staff of the acute-care hospital that “everything will be fine”. The rehabilitation hospital staff’s job is to break the reality to the patient from day one by assuring the patient that they will teach him to live with reasonable independence and functionality – especially when a spinal injury is involved.
Since opening in 1986, the NRH has grown into the NRH Medical Rehabilitation Network, which operates in 34 locations, and serves thousands of patients with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries to traumatic brain injury, stroke, arthritis, amputation and other neurological and orthopedic conditions. Recognized as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report, the NRH has more than 1,500 staff members, including over 200 physicians.