San Francisco-based Dignity Health has launched an initiative to improve the patient experience for expectant mothers by offering them assistance from trained nonclinical staff.

The program, which will be piloted at Dignity Health’s Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, Calif., and at Chandler (Ariz.) Regional Medical Center, will use software to help those staff members, called docents, interact with patients during the course of their care. The service is available at no charge to patients.

“Docents will work in conjunction with our clinical care teams, but their roles will differ notably,” says Rich Roth, chief strategic innovation officer at Dignity Health. “Docents will be fully focused on cultivating relationships with patients and learning their preferences so that we can provide a patient experience that meets the individual needs of the mother-to-be.” The docents will use technology combined with care and kindness, Roth says, to create customized “patient journeys” according to individuals' medical histories, preferences and concerns.

For instance, based on that information, the technology platform will recommend specific birthing plans or prenatal classes to expectant parents. The docent can help patients to register for classes.

“The focus is on an issue most health systems prioritize — to transform the patient experience," says Paul Roscoe, CEO of Docent Health, the 18-month-old company that is providing technology and services to Dignity for the effort. Many of the docents have a customer service background or come from the hospitality industry, according to Roscoe.

Dignity Health, operating in 22 states, may roll out the service to other departments, depending on the results, Roth says.