The Brave New World of Patient Involvement in Care

Posted by Wayne Sensor on 4/14/15 10:15 AM

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It’s no secret to anyone that health care is an ever-evolving industry. But some people and organizations in health care are stepping into the brave new world of inviting patient and family advisors to partner on projects related to quality and safety.

Patient engagement can start with involving patients and families in their health care.

A recent article in H&HN Daily discussed a report by the American Hospital Association’s Health Research & Educational Trust that covers the concept of involving patients and family members as advisors. The report states that health-care leaders should access the insights and expertise of their patients to work toward achieving the Triple Aim of better care, better health and lower cost.

Examples that were given of quality and safety initiatives in which patients can be involved include: creating a task force to develop patient educational materials, communication tools and signage; root cause analysis; discharge planning; patient safety committees; and process improvement teams.

The trust also offers hospitals a five-step process to begin the efforts of engaging patients as advisors:

  1.        Recruit
  2.        Prepare the advisors
  3.        Create a culture of engagement
  4.        Implement improvement initiatives and measure impact
  5.        Sustain the relationships

The report outlines in detail how to move through each step. You can read more about the process in the full report.

I applaud the Health Research & Educational Trust for its insightful and forward-thinking approach. And I applaud any health-care system or facility that engages patients and their families in this manner. As we must, we’re moving beyond traditional methods of gauging patient satisfaction in an effort to really effect change in the quality of care.

If your organization is not yet to this point—and the vast majority are not—I might suggest starting “smaller,” if you will. Consider starting down the path of empowering patients (and loved ones) to get involved with their own health care.

Although getting involved in their own care is a smaller effort, it’s not necessarily easier to know how to get started and how to make it effective and efficient. The good news is that processes and technology solutions exist to help in this endeavor.

For example, keep the patient and family actively involved in care transitions. Patients and their loved ones often feel helpless during and after hospitals stays—not to mention throughout the discharge process. Encouraging them to be involved in care decisions and transitions maintains their engagement and empowers them.

Leveraging care coordination technology to connect patients with post-acute providers has proven successful in involving patients in their own care transitions. Automation streamlines care transitions by delivering important information about post-acute providers, which allows families to make informed decisions much more quickly and easily than through time-consuming manual methods.

Technology can also be used to continue oversight of patients. During a post-acute care stay, patients may forget care instructions. They often find it challenging to adapt to new demands and habits. Technology can make it easier for hospitals to keep the entire care team focused on the same goal.

For instance, care coordination solutions can unite all members of a patient's care team, including primary care physicians, care managers, home health nurses, pharmacies and family members. They provide an electronic command center to communicate the care plan, monitor the patient's path after discharge and communicate updates—and even send alerts to appropriate care team members when interventions are needed.

Some robust systems allow patients or personal care givers to enter vital information that’s reported back to the care team, including blood pressure readings or changes in weight. Access to condition-specific educational materials can be made to encourage patient compliance, family and patient engagement and caregiver support.

If you’d like to learn more ways that your organization can maintain communication with patients and their loved ones after they leave your hospital, I encourage you to access these tips.

And what about your organization? Are you considering or have you involved patients as advisors? I’d love to hear your lessons learned and success stories.

Topics: Post-acute Care, Care Coordination, Care Transitions, Patient and Family Engagement, Patient Satisfaction, Healthcare IT