Friday, July 29, 2011

Save The Company Time and Money

Family Medical Leave and Patient Safety

Betty needs to take a few days a month off from work to take her husband of 30 years to doctor’s appointments and for procedures following his stroke earlier this year.  Under the Family Medical Leave Act she is entitled to time away from work.   

Supportive of Betty, her boss gives her the time, no questions asked, but the company she works for  suffers when Betty is away.  What exactly is Betty doing for her husband when she takes him to the hospital for tests and procedures?  When I asked her, she says she drives him to the appointments and asks the doctor questions.

What Betty or her the supervisor at her job don’t realize, is that there are many things she can do to help ensure that her husband receives the best care possible and help speed up her time back to work – ultimately saving her from using sick time or losing pay and save her company money.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles family members to take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for a sick family member.  But the family is not given the skills that can actually help produce better results speeding up recovery time and shorten lost work days.  Very often they are just the driver for the patient or what I call, the coat holder, doing nothing more than holding the coat for the patient, maybe ask a few questions, or write some notes.

If Betty took a brief training course in Family Centered Patient Advocacy, she would have some of the skills to make sure everyone who touched her husband washed their hands, cutting down the risk of infection.  She would learn to carry antibacterial wipes to clean door knobs and anything her husband, or others touched that may carry germs.

She would be confident to take all her husband’s medication, vitamins and herbs to the doctor or pharmacist for review to check for hidden side effects or interactions.

Betty may learn to ask about support groups for stroke patients who would help her, and him through the maze of paperwork increasing her chances to get back to work faster.

She would feel empowered to ask the doctor to repeat himself if she didn’t understand instructions avoiding a missed appointment, missed dose of medication or the improper use of equipment.

Betty would know to look for risks of falls so her husband would be safe from injury at home and in the hospital.  If he were to fall it could easily cause a delay in her return to work.  

Betty would learn to take notes when the doctor is speaking and ask the doctor to come back so they can think of more questions before they leave, possibly avoiding another day of missed work to visit the doctor or make phone calls for corrected information.

She would learn to ask for forms before she has to sign them so she can read them.

And finally, Betty would encourage a friend, family member, someone from her church, synagogue or a neighbor who doesn’t work to take the advocacy training too so Betty can go back to work and not be afraid that no one else could care for him.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful for her company?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Byron Garcia and Michael Bloomberg

Who is Byron Garcia and why is he important?
Byron Garcia is best known for his leadership of 1,500 prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”  following the death of Michael Jackson, prisoners wanted to pay tribute and practiced for many long hours stopping only when it rained, or to eat according to a CBS News report.
Garcia claims prisoners told him 'You have put my mind off revenge, foolishness, or thinking how to escape from jail, or joining a gang'," he said.
Byron Garcia, a businessman became the warden of the prison when his sister became governor and offered him the job.  With no experience with the prison system, Garcia transformed the prisoners from angry murderers, rapists and drug pushers to dancers who enjoyed entertaining and paying tribute to Michael Jackson through dance and rhythm teaching them cooperation and control.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a businessman until 2002 when he became New York Cities 108th Mayor.
In September 2010, New York City claimed to be the safest large city in America
Under Bloomberg’s direction New York City is leading the nation in job growth.
So, what does this have to do with patient safety?  Imagine if patients ran the hospitals?  We may not know the business, but we may be the best at running the hospital.  Garcia knew people and he knew what they would be willing to do to.  He knew what they needed.  A tribute to Michael Jackson.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not a “politician” but a businessman and turned the city around.  Imagine if I were given a year to work with a hospital and improve patient care?  I know I could turn it around and make it safe.  Not because I know every detail about patient safety standards and policies but because I know people, how to make them strong and want practice safe, quality care.
I’m up for the challenge, anyone willing?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Health Information Technology


A phone call and e-mail invitation last week brought me to Philadelphia to be part of a small discussion group talking about health information technology (HIT) this week. This group was brought together by the US Department of Health and Human Services to explore the consumer’s perspective of healthcare technology.

Ironically, this has come at the same time a local RHIO or Regional Health Information Organization is focusing on learning the patient’s perspective through research trials. Over the years I have learned that Health Information Technology, opportunities to use the internet to correspond with your doctor’s office or share information between hospitals and doctor’s offices is actually potential life-saving technology.

It occurred to me that in my own son’s case so many years ago, as he was bleeding from a tonsillectomy and I brought him to 4 different doctors on 5 different occasions during that week to be examined, if they each knew I did that, they may have taken my concerns more seriously. Not knowing at that time that I went from doctor to doctor may have actually made them think they were the first visit. Not stressing that I made numerous visits with continued bleeding may have made them not aware of how much he was actually bleeding sending us home with the comforting words “don’t worry, he will be fine” each time.

Could health information technology saved my son’s life? That’s a question that will never be answered but knowing the full history of a patient is important to each doctor’s decisions of care and presently they are trusting us, the patient and family to share information appropriately and fully.