Yesterday, Wendy received the Patient View Impact Award, the only national award given to patients who make a personal impact in medicine. Payette was given a special award too, for being a champion of the project. (In reality, without them it wouldn’t have been possible. ) The awards were given by the Patients’ View Institute, a non-profit organization committed to organizing and amplifying the patient voice, so we can have more impact on the quality of care we receive.
The Patients’ View Institute collects patients’ stories, organizes them, and allows them to be viewed by others going through similar circumstances. It also awards a few great stories once a year at the annual meeting of the Leapfrog Group. The Leapfrog Group is a non-profit committed to transparency in medicine. Hospitals send them their quality and safety reports, and Leapfrog gives them an A-F grade based upon their reporting. The best hospitals are brought to this annual meeting to receive their award.
So, Wendy was given an award in front of representatives of the best hospitals for quality and safety in the nation. Think on that for a second. If you could tell three hundred people who have the power to change the day-to-day operations of a hospital, if you had their undivided attention, what would you say to them?
Here’s what struck me about the day. Everyone in the room was trying to make healthcare better. Everyone was worried about the cost, the consistency, and the safety of healthcare. But most of the people were looking at it from the institutional side of it, the bean-counting side, if you will.
Wendy’s story was one of a few individual stories of patients who were empowered to make change in the medical world. The most prominent story, however, was the keynote speaker, Epatient Dave, who talks about patient engagement and empowerment. His TED talk is one of the most viewed talks in history. I highly recommend it. He empowers patients to know their health history, and to connect with each other.
Another parent was there winning an award, named Becky White, is also the parent of a medically complex child. Not 0nly did she go back to school to get her nursing degree, but she went back again to get her MBA. She stressed that as a parent of a medically complex child, that she needed to know how to speak three languages: the language her child would understand, the language the medical world would understand, and the language that the business world would understand. She invites hospital administration to round with her when she is taking care of children so that they understand what is necessary for caring for a medically complex child.
Another parent, Liz Minda, is an advocate for her child who has had over 11,000 seizures in her lifetime. Liz advocates for medical marijuana, and has spoken to media and legislatures about its impact on her daughter’s health.
You can read about both of these women here in the PVI press release.
It took me some time to process the whole day. There was so much information, so much intention by everyone in the room to improve health care, that it was hard to keep it all straight. I took copious notes.
What struck me about the other patients and parents, though, was that they were both empowered and impatient. They were there because they were creating change. Wendy and I were there because we wanted change too. The kids in these stories are extreme cases, but they don’t have to be, they don’t have to be the kids who are frequent fliers in the hospitals. I think, though, that the amount of time our children spend in the hospitals make us as parents want to make the entire medical experience better.
Some people write books about their experience; some write blogs. Some people speak at TED talks. Some people create cartoons.
What can the average person do? That’s what I was thinking about last night. Does it have to be such a grand gesture? Of course not. Those things get noticed, surely, but lots of good can be done without a media blitz surrounding it.
I came to this idea of the Patient and Family Advisory Council. It is a council at hospitals that really bridges the divide between patients (or families) and providers. Let’s say a family has an experience at a hospital and they know a way that it can be improved. For example, a family notices that there are no pediatric wheelchairs. Where can they go to get them ordered? The Family Advisory Council. A family notices that the pain medication that was prescribed in the Emergency Department doesn’t transfer up in the orders when they reach the floor. Who can they tell? How do they create the change? The Family Advisory Council can point them in the right direction.
When Wendy and I wrote the story for the Emergency Department Cartoon, I brought it to the Family Advisory Council to help me figure out what to do with it. The co-Chair of the FAC, Sandy Clancy, helped me to create a committee of people who needed to see it to approve the content, including doctors, nurses, social workers, child-life specialists, psychologists, you name it. There would have been no way for me to know whom to contact or how to do it.
Likewise, the Family Advisory Council is a resource for the hospital as well. Different departments come to us for advice about any variety of things. New blueprints for new departments are brought to the FAC to see if they have any suggestions. FAC members review and edit information that is given to the public. Parents speak to residents on their first day in their new job about the importance of bedside rounding. We even sponsor a Grand Rounds every year about family centered care.
I wrote a piece about family advisory councils for Courageous Parents Network a few months ago. You can read it here. (It lists me as Casey Daniels, though. 🙂
If you want to be a part of a Family Advisory Council, contact your hospital and see if they have one. Usually there’s an application process. If your hospital doesn’t have one, consider starting one. The Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care has created a whole series on how to start an FAC in your area. You can look at their information here.
In conclusion, though it’s not exactly important what I said at the conference with 300 quality and safety people in it, since I posed the question, I will tell you what I decided to say, concerning the cartoon.
I said, since we all arrived by airplane and every airplane in America has a safety introduction before they take off, everything from fastening your seatbelt to what to do in the event of a water landing, why don’t we have introductions to every Emergency Department in America, when people are sick and scared and hurt?
Though it may not change anything, hopefully it gave people something to think about on their flight home.