Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reports Give False Hope

Don't Let Reports Fool You

Don’t let reports of hospitals doing poorly cause you false hope that you are automatically safe if you use another hospital. Newsday December 23, 2014 
We know that as well as bad things happening in hospitals, lives are saved each and every minute of each day.  But, I don’t want to take away from even one life being cut short because of a medical error, hospital acquired infection or unplanned outcome.  Reports that a hospital has lower ratings than another gives reason for leadership to pat themselves on the back – but even in the “best” hospitals people have bedsores, die from infections and can be given the wrong medication.  Even if they don’t make the news.  To let our guard down even for a second is a cause for concern.  
Never had a car accident?  So should you stop wearing your seat belt?  Cancel your insurance?  No.  We must use these reports only as an opportunity to continue the conversation, recognize we aren’t where we need to be yet and continue the education and advocacy that was started long ago.  This report is screaming that PULSE of NY is important and patient safety groups need to step it up a notch and work closer where the problem is – in the hospitals and at the bedside.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Understanding HIPAA

HIPAA, So Misunderstood

HIPAA does not mean your clinician cannot share information with your family.  HIPAA does not mean that a doctor cannot share your information with another clinician.  Many of us, as well as the people who work in healthcare do not understand HIPAA.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), provides protections for individually identifiable health information held by covered entities and their business associates and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of health information needed for patient care and other important purposes

If I do not object, can my health care provider share or discuss my health information with my family, friends, or others involved in my care or payment for my care?

Answer:

Yes.  As long as you do not object, your health care provider is allowed to share or discuss your health information with your family, friends, or others involved in your care or payment for your care.  Your provider may ask your permission, may tell you he or she plans to discuss the information and give you an opportunity to object, or may decide, using his or her professional judgment, that you do not object.  In any of these cases, your health care provider may discuss only the information that the person involved needs to know about your care or payment for your care.  

Here are some examples:

·         An emergency room doctor may discuss your treatment in front of your friend when you ask that your friend come into the treatment room.
·         Your hospital may discuss your bill with your daughter who is with you at the hospital and has questions about the charges.
·         Your doctor may talk to your sister who is driving you home from the hospital about your keeping your foot raised during the ride home.
·         Your doctor may discuss the drugs you need to take with your health aide who has come with you to your appointment.
·         Your nurse may tell you that she is going to tell your brother how you are doing, and then she may discuss your health status with your brother if you did not say that she should not.

BUT:
·         Your nurse may not discuss your condition with your brother if you tell her not to.
You may want information kept private - but it isn't always about HIPAA.  Privacy and ethical behavior can’t be disputed, HIPAA can.
Before your next medical appointment, read about HIPAA here:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Patient Safety Education; You Need PULSE of NY


Why You Need PULSE of NY


In a recent 30 minute presentation about patient safety I began to talk about the difference between a healthcare proxy and patient advocate.  A woman in her later years shot her hand up and said “you need to have a friend who knows information about you in case you can’t speak” she told a room full of her peers.  It was apparent as we continued the dialogue that she didn’t know what a healthcare proxy or advance directives are.  We often assume people know what we are talking about.  Patient care is a perfect example of language that is misunderstood and too often the receiver of the information is too intimidated to ask or feeling overwhelmed.  They also may think they know information but until it’s time to follow instructions of a care plan – possibly like taking medication, they realize they don’t understand.
“Do you think that a patient’s bed rail needs to always be up to avoid falls?” I asked explaining that falls can cause serious injury and may add as much as $13,000 to a hospital stay.  When most of the audience nodded, I explained how a patient, no matter their age, may try to climb out of their bed and this could be tragic.  When visiting a friend in the hospital, if you know they may have fallen in the past, be sure the nurses know.  “If you see a star or sometimes a picture of a slipper on the door” I explain, “do not encourage the patient to get up”.
The presentation I cover is about some basic topics costing healthcare billions of dollars each year.  Falls, infections, literacy, medication and surgery also known as F.I.L.M.S. is the basis of the presentation.  Other important topics are advance directives, communication for the best diagnosis and record keeping.
At one community program, audience members admitted that when discharged from the hospital, they left without understanding their next steps.  Should they go back to the surgeon, their family physician or not at all?  If they didn’t understand their medications they were given, some people have told me they wouldn’t get a prescription filled.  Understanding before getting surgery that there are people to help in the hospital with questions or concerns might keep someone from being readmitted because they didn’t understand their care plan.
Most people are annoyed that they are asked on numerous occasions their name and birthday.  When learning that this may help reduce errors, participants are encouraged to be sure every person who treats or transports them asks for 2 forms of ID and agree that now they will expect to be asked.
Choosing your advocate needs to be done before an emergency strikes.  Will your helper be non-English speaking, over 95 years old and unable to hear with limited sight?  Will your advocate or helper be someone who loves you so much they can’t think straight and cries continuously when your clinician talks to you about your cancer diagnosis?  
Listening skills, communication examples and fun interaction can turn patient injury into a celebration of care going right.
Patient safety is not about us – or them.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to be part of the team working around the patient for patient centered care.  We all need to work together to keep a patient safe; friends, family and medical staff.  It’s time the information about patient safety comes out of the hospital walls and lands in the laps of the public so changes can happen.  If you’re looking for a community presentation that can last 45 minutes to *6 hours, call (516) 579-4711

*The PULSE of NY 6- hour workshop is a certificate programs.  Fees may apply

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another Set of Ears

Speaking in Plain Language

When I went to see this young man I arrived at his mother’s hospital floor before him.  We connected through a mutual friend who thought I might be of some comfort or helpful.   It was almost 10:00 AM and I was running late.  Respectfully, I waited outside his mother’s room until he arrived.  I have learned to stand in one spot, barely moving when I am visiting someone in the hospital.  Being respectful and aware are the two most important things to me.  My phone vibrated and he was calling from the lobby.  Visiting hours start at 11:00 AM.  I looked at the hospitals website before my visit.  He said he was downstairs waiting for 11:00.
“Visiting hours” I told him, “are for other people.  It’s not for you.  Hold your head up high and walk past the sign.  Act like you are a man in charge.”  Minutes later the elevator door opened and a tall handsome young man walked out already in a sad place and now feeling even more vulnerable.  My job was to help him feel empowered while not taking any more of his power away.
He introduced me to his mother who was unresponsive and at the end stages of cancer.  The mask on her face, when removed to offer her sips of a drink, caused her saturations to drop frighteningly low.  He did not want his mother to have the discomfort of this mask on her but the other masks weren’t working.   We immediately started writing down the things he wanted to talk to the doctor about.  The mask, her diet, her medications.  As he thought out loud, I wrote his thoughts and questions in a notebook I brought for him to keep.    He pulled out a notebook and started writing too.
When the doctors came, along with the young students in tow, the conversation turned to hospice and palliative care.  It was 10:30 in the morning and before visiting hours.  I now realized why the family never had a conversation with the doctors in charge of her care.  By 11:00, they would be long past this room and on to other patients.
The attending physician told us that the palliative care team would be in to talk to him about his mother’s care sometime today.  I asked the overwhelmed son if I may ask a question. “Sure” he said.   “Does this mean he cannot use the bathroom, have lunch or leave the room because he may miss the team?”  I asked pointing at the young man standing over me?  “He has been waiting 5 days already.”    The doctor went into his jacket pocket, pulled out a phone and called for the team to come up.  Minutes later the doctor came with the students again following.
The kind and gentle physician who oversaw this department explained that to make her comfortable they would give her medication so she can rest comfortably and take the mask off.  The conversation lasted less than 10 minutes.  The physician asked what the son wanted to do and we requested the doctor’s contact information so he can decide.  I asked if I can ask a question and when the son said “yes”, I asked the doctor so the patient’s son could hear clearly, “Are you saying that if you removed the oxygen and gave her medication to rest comfortably, she will die?”  The doctor looked at me, at the son and back at me again and said.  “Yes”.
Now, he can make an informed decision.  Family was called, arrangements were made and she passed peacefully the next day.  Her children hopefully, can live with no regrets.  Rest in Peace

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ebola is Worse?

Lessons from Ebola

People come into this country with Ebola and we see professionals wearing hazmat suits to treat patients because Ebola is contagious and deadly.  90,000 people die from hospital acquired infections each year in this country and we are still asking medical professionals to wash their hands.