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Patient Engagement Takes Physician Leadership

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 25, 2011
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When patients are admitted to the hospital, each one receives a copy of the “Partnership Pledge,” a document that invites them to take an active role in safety by asking questions, raising concerns, and providing complete, accurate home medication histories, Pronovost says.

At the more than 1,000-bed Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI, various patient committees have been formed to focus on different diseases and aspects of care. Already, they have had an impact in raising a voice for patients, says Kris White, vice president of patient affairs and president of Spectrum Health Innovations.

One group, for instance, criticized the health system’s use of the term discharge planning. “They said, ‘You call this ‘discharge planning’. How can you make a better experience for me and call it ‘discharge planning?’ I just had a heart transplant, so my care here will continue. Don’t call it ‘discharge.’” Such comments, White adds, are taken to heart by the hospital’s C-suite. The patients’ statements also reflect the patients’ need and want to be “continually involved in rehab.”

The physician and engagement

Primary care physicians also have been challenged by patient responsibility, with more doctors concerned about the quality of information patients are leaving with when they finish their appointments. The right information and education, they say, can enable patients to gain more responsibility for their care, whether it means trying to quit smoking or dealing with weight issues. Ultimately, some health experts say, patients must become partners with their physicians in laying out a framework for their care.

Some providers note that there are patients whose illnesses define their vulnerability and who must rely on their family or healthcare professionals for assistance, and thus cannot be sufficiently empowered. And there are others who will not move forward to meet the challenges of hospitalization or of being a patient, no matter what advice is given, despite being physically or mentally capable.

Most patients, however, can take part in their own treatment: Take the medication as prescribed; stop smoking when advised to do so; enroll in wellness programs to reduce weight or avoid comorbidities.

Still, the industry has been slow to lay the framework, says Norman Tabler Jr., senior vice president and general counsel for Indiana University Health System in Indianapolis.

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2 comments on "Patient Engagement Takes Physician Leadership"


mueller (11/9/2011 at 6:10 PM)
This involves social accountability as well. What if alcohol and tobacco companies were forced to run their own hospitals? They would have to treat alcohol-addicted withdrawing patients or alcoholic cirrhosis and lung cancer or chronic obstuctive pulmonary disease exacerbations due to smoking? What if there was a McDonald's hospital for the obese, heart diseased and diabetic patients? The CEO's of these companies would surely take a paycut as these rapidly popular chronic diseases are costing taxpayers a fortune! Yes, its is a personal choice to smoke, eat junk food and/or drink in excess and to understand the health consequences of doing so. Where is the social accountability here? Why aren't we looking more at addictive behaviors or stress that can lead to unhealthy behaviors? Why are we, as a society, enabling these behaviors? Physicians, nurses, dieticians, social workers, and teachers cannot do it all, even though most do try. Instead of stuffing their fat wallets, CEO's need to partake in some responsibility and accountability as parters in care to their consumers.

Dale Ball (10/26/2011 at 8:30 AM)
Overland Park Orthopedics is patient-physician engagement on steroids! My doctor who diagnosed my torn medial gastro actually emailed me the next week. If and when I move away from the area you can be sure I will return for orthopedic care.