The New Frontier of Patient Safety: Patient and Family Respect & Engagement

One of the important breakout sessions during the AHA Leadership Summit was “Redesigning Care–A New Playbook to Improve Quality, Safety and Patient-Centered Care”. The session was led by Kenneth Sands, MD of Beth Israel Deaconess, Peter Pronovost, MD (Johns Hopkins Hospital), Hildy Schell-Chaple of UCSan Francisco Hospital and Patricia Dykes, PhD Of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. We all know of the focus on eliminating preventable medical errors in hospitals – this is the most noble and achievable goals set forth in healthcare.

The major update we saw in the meeting was extremely uplifting and important – these four leaders who are setting the tone of Patient Safety in the hospital recognized disrespect to the Patient as a “Do No Harm” event. We are all seeing how technology, workflow mapping and other techniques are improving patient safety in the hospital. Yet, I personally feel, through my own experiences as a patient, observer and partner of a physician, there is no more important thing we can do than understand when the patient feels disrespected and eliminate this issue.

Why does this matter? Beyond the basic moral value of treating everyone respectfully and as an individual, it leads to incredible dividends for the patient and the hospital. Patricia Dykes of Brigham and Women’s showed how they and UCSF are engaging the patient by providing them deeper information into their own health record while staying at the hospital. They are seeing evidence in both anecdotes and data that this is improving outcomes. Anecdotally, an audience member noted how engagement has led to hospitals eliminating misunderstandings of how injuries occurred. The data is showing that the engaged patient has lower costs and better outcomes after they leave the hospital environment.

My only concern was the panel stated hospitals were sharing information “at the patient health education level.” I did ask Patricia Dykes during the talk why a patient, like me, can’t see their entire medical record in real time – after all, I do have an ego and love reading about myself! Dr. Dykes answered that this is her intent to get to full transparency with the patient – challenges of reams of data and also fears of clinical staff still abound. So she has taken a step by step approach.

Further, Dr. Gawande noted that when you respect the patient and know the patient, it improves outcomes and eliminates errors. In his keynote, he gave data concerning palliative care that simply asking aging patients what they believe is highest quality of life improved patient satisfaction tremendously and reduced costs for the hospitals. He felt this simple, key understanding of a patient could help dramatically in the costs of an aging population.

I respect incredibly the thought process that individualized thinking of each patient and engaging him/her and family is one of the most important things we can do. I am a datahead, yet I still came away thinking this is more important than reviewing data (and I am biased about data!). Treating each person as an individual in their own circumstance is respect and brings rewards to our communities beyond costs. I was uplifted to see this theme across the entire AHA Leadership Conference.

Suneil Mandava

CEO, Mobile Aspects, Inc.