Thursday, November 7, 2013


Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care

Gentle, compassionate, caring, warm, friendly, kind are just some of the ways patients and their families describe the care they receive at hospitals that are patient and family centered. The skills of the medical team seem to never be addressed.  It is the way people are treated that we remember.  We expect when flying in a plane to get to the destination. So, when the service is extraordinary, the staff friendly and the seating  comfortable, that’s what stands out.  The same goes for hospitals, clinics and at doctor’s offices.  Ask almost anyone what they think of their doctor and they will tell you they like him / her because they are nice, listen or are friendly. 

I had the opportunity to hear similar stories at the IPFCC conference held in Minnesota last week.  It was uplifting, educational and moving.  It was a week of learning ideas that “work” or have worked to make a hospital patient and family centered.  Making for better outcomes often is based on communication and the better communication, feeling of acceptance, respect and treated with dignity builds relationships.  Honest, open relationships can mean better outcomes.

One woman shared the story of going to radiation with a friend and they dressed up in costumes.  (An appropriate story for Halloween eve).  Soon the others receiving radiation were also dressing up in costumes and instead of no one talking to each other, at each treatment there was laughter and friendship.  The presentation ended with a slide show of patients in costumes hugging and laughing.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room of over 400 people.
What does patient centeredness mean?  It was a common theme of medical professionals, patients and family members at this conference.  Most were representing patient and family advisory councils where the patient or the family members of patients come together and talk about improvements to the hospitals or healthcare system they use. 

Visiting policy, the human touch, talking eye to eye, how patients share their stories were some additional topics.   Work groups were formed over lunch to develop an action plan helping to move each person’s or groups agenda forward. 
Breakfast roundtables were for researchers, PFAC members, nurses, social workers or any group you may want to start, a sign would be ready at a table for you.  Patient and family centeredness can mean something different to anyone, or it can mean a lot to one.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I "vote" for Patient's Safety

Who to Vote For When Your Issue Doesn't Count?

As election-day comes upon us, it is hard for me to choose who I want to vote for.  Campaign promises come and go but my issue is patient’s safety and no one wants to take that up.  This year, I approached the county administration to support the Designated Medication Manager (DMM).  This would offer a tool for the general public to understand how they can help each other reduce medication errors, dependency and misuse of prescriptions, vitamins and herbs.  I was told that that for the county to support  a DMM it needs approval from the medical society.  The medical society’s role is not to protect the public, it’s to protect the physicians (who protect the public).  So, we can be sure Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is not going to protect the public unless it’s approved by the special interest. 
Tom Suozzi on the other hand was approached when he was in office too.  We asked him to get involved in patient safety.  That too never happened.  As long as $1.00 of Nassau County funds is going to healthcare costs, safety must be part of the conversation.
A recent meeting hosted at C.W. Post campus of Long Island University about the future of healthcare on Long Island didn’t address patient safety.  The conversation didn’t turn to safety until members of PULSE of NY, a community based patient safety organization brought it up privately and interviewed some of the panel members.

There is a tremendous cost to the economy that can be reduced.  Are you tired of hearing that 98,000 people die each year from preventable medical errors?  Well good, because the new number is 440,000. 
Costs of medical errors in the United States of $19.5 billion during the year 2008 according to the report by  The Economic Measurement of Medical Errors  Sponsored by Society of Actuaries’ Health Section.

Imagine that with each death there is the loss of an employee, now someone new needs to be hired and trained.  A patient who misses work and needs a temporary replacement because of a hospital acquired infection, a second surgery or a missed diagnosis.   Life insurance policy payments stop but are now distributed to the patient’s family.  A misdiagnosis is costly when tests must be redone. 

Patient’s health can get worse and not better when there is simple communication problems.  Patient’s who don’t understand what the doctor meant when he said “come back in two weeks” or a patient who doesn’t take his medication because he forgot, didn’t understand instructions or can’t afford the pills for his chronic condition.

Medical errors are not about blaming anyone.  We need the public to know how they happen and how they can be avoided.  Medication errors injure 1.5 million people a year creating huge healthcare costs.  A Designated Medication Manager can help change those numbers but it’s not important enough this year I suppose.