Posted by Amy Wilson-Stronks
I am fortunate to have a very wide, robust, multi-disciplinary, diverse network of colleagues and friends with expertise in many areas related directly and indirectly to healthcare. I have had many conversations with my network about our healthcare system, and unashamedly, I find myself frustrated with how healthcare is delivered. I am stunned at the lack of sincere focus on the patient.
Sure, “patient engagement,” “population health,” “patient experience,” and “patient satisfaction” cover the pages of healthcare trade publications. But as I work with healthcare organizations, I see that sincere attention to the needs, beliefs, and expectations of the patients, families, and communities receiving care is relatively rare.
I know that there are many reasons for the lack of awareness, and but the issue does not exist because healthcare providers don’t care about their patients. However, competing priorities, the complexity of payment systems, staffing challenges, and the burden of documentation and electronic record systems limits the time that direct care staff and clinicians have to communicate effectively with patients and family members in order to sincerely understand the patient.
Historically, Wilson-Stronks has engaged clients by collaborating with healthcare organizations to help them create systems that support effective patient-provider communication and understanding. Unfortunately, effective communication is an area of quality and safety improvement and risk reduction that is not always viewed as a priority. We are left to wonder, “Well then, WHAT? What CAN we do to improve healthcare?”
A conversation last summer finally made things click. Ilene Corina, a grass-roots patient safety advocate and trainer, responded to my laments regarding patient provider-communication with this comment,
“That’s why I work with patients. (Decision-makers) don’t really know what is happening at the bedside. They sit behind their desks and hold meetings. And when they are on the units, it’s a show in their honor; unlikely the day-to-day reality faced by most direct care staff, clinicians, and patients.”
Ilene helped me (finally) understand how Wilson-Stronks can have a more meaningful impact: Working to empower the people who are at the patient’s bedside–the family caregiver; the healthcare proxy; the support person. I don’t know why it took me so long to get it, but my conversations with Ilene inspire our launch of the Wilson-Stronks Improving Healthcare Advocacy Program: Putting Patients in Patient Safety.
Many people who read this blog may have had personal experiences that made them aware of the gaps in the healthcare system. Some people may know about the gaps from the experiences of a friend or family member. Others may be familiar with issues because they are among the direct care staff trying to find the time and resources to sincerely understand their patients. Many of you have shared your stories with me, as I have shared my own.
But FINALLY I get it, and now Wilson-Stronks is ready to act: the only way to really improve healthcare is by taking our care into our own hands and educating and empowering those around us who have less medical and health literacy than we do.
I hope I can share some great success stories with you soon. Please know that the power of your stories can have a positive influence, and I thank you all for sharing to help the rest of us better understand what it is like to be in the hospital gown and sitting at the bedside of our loved one.