Category

Consumer

Leadership of My Health Team

By Consumer, ePatient, Leader No Comments
I was reading a white paperAn Accountability Architecture for Success, by Wellesley Partners, comparing military success to health care success: Working together as part of a team, applying their specialized knowledge toward a common goal and Define success based on data-driven, results-based metrics; put someone in charge; and hold people accountable. Does this apply to my health care? I have a team, we periodically set common goals. We try to be data driven, we track certain metrics. But who’s in charge and how do we hold each other accountable? Ideally, I, the patient, am in charge. But in reality its a moving target. When we’re kids our parents are in charge, this shifts as we become tweens, and shifts again when and if our mental acuity deteriorates accidentally or progressively. When does the professional take charge? Do we allow this because that’s the way it is or does it happen because the decisions of the moment seem beyond our abilities or energy level? Is the team clear who makes the decisions? Shared decision-making still means that a decision is made. Can I effectively progress in my health journey when I’m not clear who’s in charge and how we hold ourselves accountable? With my team I make the decisions. If I’m the leader and making decisions, then I must be accountable. I’m accountable to follow the path we set. Upstream, professionals and the offices and institutions they work in are accountable to share data with me and help me interpret the data to set the path. I’m accountable to expect that data, seek other data, and participate in turning the data into information that helps us set common goals. The rest of my team is accountable to help me meet the goals. It feels awkward for me, a knowledgeable, empowered, and energized patient, to talk with my team about decision-making and accountability. We have lots of work to do.

Patient Centered Outcomes Research

By Advocate, Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient, Leader 5 Comments
I attended the PCORI workshop in DC last weekend. Congress authorized PCORI The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to conduct research to provide information about the best available evidence to help patients and their health care providers make more informed decisions. PCORI’s research intends to give patients a better understanding of the prevention, treatment and care options available, and the science that supports those options. About 130 attended: patients, patient advocates, representatives of disease specific organizations, researchers, clinicians, home schoolers. PCORI aligns well with my personal mission: Increase the sense of balance patients, caregivers, and clinicians feel as they work together towards best health.
My main takeaways from the weekend are:
  1. Current research focuses disproportionately on the medical end of the health spectrum. Which therapy (mostly drugs) works better? Many participants would like to shift focus of research to the social and behavioral factors on the spectrum. Social factors are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. Behavioral factors include risky behavior, developing and following health plans, management of stress, pain and illness
  2. The gold standard of double-blind studies does little to help those confronting illness make decisions. As my neurologist tells me, it’s very challenging to apply research about populations to people. I am not a population. There are other models of sharing information and building on experience.
  3. Dissemination of research results is last funded and least rigorous. Many results are not published. Most patients don’t read peer-reviewed journals.
  4. The power gradient in research favors those managing the money. Rather than researchers seeking consumer involvement, communities could control the funding and seek researchers
  5. Health disparities affect communities (the unfair and avoidable differences in health status shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels). Research into health disparities can inform action by self-defined communities.
  6. The reservoir of experience, expertise, passion, and commitment of the PCORI participants is awesome, deep and diverse. I  am humbled to be included in this movement.

Patient Adherence – Lessons from Recovery

By Consumer, ePatient, Leader No Comments
I attended a planning meeting of the #PatientAdherence Working Group in Newark, NJ on Thursday. The group dedicates itself to patients & health teams members developing an adherence plan for best health outcomes. I began discussion of adherence in a previous post Developing and adhering to a health plan involves studying population health; evidence-based best practice; collaborative relationships, behaviors, language, and alignment of the health team; standardized work flows with on-the-spot improvisation; electronic and non-electronic tools; leadership; and management of cultural and social habits and challenges.

I was educated about the complexity of adherence under the tutelage of Bob Doherty while working at St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center in Albany, NY. Bob taught me that recovery (adherence) involves the whole person and all their social systems – personal health, family relationships, housing, diet, spirit, etc. That relapse is not failure but a milestone in a journey to best health. Relapse is an opportunity to learn and recalibrate. Such lessons! The medical side of health has much to learn from addiction treatment. An inspired example of technology contributing to adherence comes from The Recovery Engagement Center. Check it out.

Open Notes

By Consumer, ePatient 2 Comments
My mission is to increase the sense of balance patients, caregivers, and clinicians feel as they work together towards best health. Working together means relationships and communication. Sometimes I wish I had more face time with the professionals participating in my care. Paradoxically, although my relationships with my professional team are strong, I don’t really want more face time with them, it’s too stressful. Also my brain is not at its best during my face time with them. I make lists of questions often forgetting to ask some. Then my wife asks a question after the visit I never thought of during the visit. Secure messaging/email has helped greatly, allowing me to ask those questions, receive reminders, extending the communication beyond the face time. The Robert Woods Johnson sponsored Open Notes initiative extends the relationship and communication further, making the professionals’ medical record entries available to consumers. See this month’s Annals of Internal Medicine article and the Geek Doctor’s and the Society for Participatory Medicine’s blog posts. Potentially, access to our professional teams’ notes could help engage and inform us more in our care. The challenges extending this demonstration project include providers writing notes that are understandable by and useful to consumers, readily accessible electronic records, and a mechanism to ask questions, comment, and correct. Very exciting potential here. Stay tuned. Have any of you read your providers’ notes?

Give Me My Damn Data

By Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient 3 Comments
Making decisions about my best health requires information, wisdom, faith,and luck. Information comes from data, observation, and communication. Wisdom comes from experience and reflection. Faith is trust. And there’s a crap shoot in choices, who knows. For me health care decisions is a team sport, best done when I’ve been able to hand-pick my team – professionals and loved ones. Necessary to my decisions is access to my medical record. Access to my medical record by itself is like drinking water of unknown quality from multiple fire hoses. I have at least ten medical records, seven of them electronic. My primary care, neurology, ophthalmology, neuro-ophthalmology, cardiology, and urology records all electronic and on different systems. My massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic records, all paper. Not to mention my electronic Personal Health Record on Microsoft HealthVault that I use to try to consolidate them all.  I have a chronic illness but I function well. I’ve never been an inpatient. Are you dizzy yet. My periodic, episodic decisions are somewhat based on the data in the records, but more on knowing my nonnegotiables (e.g., nothing that makes me depressed) and having faith in my professional health team. I worry about two scenarios related to my medical record:  1) I want all of my health team to have the same information to share among each other – primary care to specialist, specialist to specialist, and specialist to primary care (relevant history, allergies, medications, procedures, diagnostic study results, impressions, diagnoses, unresolved dilemmas, next steps). Now I have to compile it to share. 2) I want the information readily accessible to whoever takes care of me in an unexpected situation when I can’t fully communicate for myself like when I fell, had a concussion, and went by ambulance to the ER (Current medications and medications that didn’t work, allergies, doctors, procedures, relevant history, recent diagnostics studies, ability to communicate, ability to learn, caregivers, typical reaction to pain and the unknown, what works to relieve pain, inform, and calm, and cultural and spiritual needs). Ideally, I would have a health partner with me to help, but I might not – luck.

In the face of this quagmire, I marvel that some providers question whether I should have real-time, unfiltered access to my medical record.  If I don’t, who will? They don’t. Nobody has unfiltered, real-time access to my complete record. Decision-making is a minefield of insufficient information, wisdom, sensitivity,or trust with awkward emotion and  bad luck. Access to real-time, unfiltered information is necessary to decision-making, but insufficient. Give me my damn data.

Consumer Engagement – Respect the Horse

By Advocate, Consumer, ePatient, Leader One Comment
I went to the Duke Wireless Health Conference (See #dukewhc for the tweet thread) in North Carolina this week invited by my friend Dr. Gopal Chopra of Ping MD fame. How to engage consumers more in their health care? As a patient, I bristled at the thought that I wasn’t  engaged in my care. They don’t know me? I understand that I’m not representative of all consumers – no one is. We are all health care consumers, we are all on a health journey. There is much variation in those journeys. I also understand that other members of my health team – my primary care doc, my wife, my kids, my mother have opinions or perspectives about how engaged I am in my healthcare. I gained weight for several years. They suggested I lose weight. It wasn’t until this past year that I engaged in losing weight and lost 35 pounds. Two points: First I’m always on my health journey. The journey just happens. Second, my ability to focus on various aspects of that journey and engage in trying to change that journey ebbs and flows. Sometimes I focus on some of the seriously annoying aspects of MS: vision, mobility, balance. Sometimes, I need a rest from it all. can’t focus at all. I appreciate being accepted by my health team as I am. I appreciate that they care about me and listen to me actively. I appreciate their support when I’m ready to tackle a particular challenge, like weight loss. Ah, there it is – a team present when ready. Hold that thought.

We have a primal conundrum – the tension between population health and individual health. The community, the industry wants the population healthier. Makes sense: it’s the right thing, it costs the community less overall, and it feeds the economy. The tension comes when individuals feel that the community knows best – how do we get the horse to drink? Do we respect the horse? How do we align these forces? Treatments, products and tools are designed for populations (its a matter of scale), but used by individuals. My takeaways from the conference are: bring products and tools to where people are (Screening kiosks in Walmarts by SoloHealth); reconnect families to reunite health teams (Family Health Networks); allow more time for caring providers to engage with their patients; engagement is not about technology – technology serves the engagement and the relationships.

Advocacy – Health Partners

By Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient One Comment
I’ve participated in several lively discussions about patient advocacy in the past weeks –  at the Boston Healthca.mp #hcbos, on the Society for Participatory Medicine (#S4PM) list and with Kelley Connor of Real Women on Health fame. Advocacy has two overlapping worlds – individual advocacy and policy advocacy.  I will muse here about individual advocacy in acute care. An advocate is a guide, champion, companion – health partner. So challenging for the acutely ill person to be effective as their own advocate. One of my sons went to Africa as a development aide worker. When I invited to engage on health with his team as they prepared for their adventure, I suggested that they identify a health partner among their team. Several months into their experience, we hadn’t heard from him in some time. Then we received a letter, Hi, I’m your son’s health partner. He contracted malaria… OMG. Health partners are those who know the patient and can focus on logistics, relationships, communication/information, and patient comfort. Vigilance about the mundane important things comes first: a good team, hand washing, pain management, and mobility. Next its access to information and setting goals or milestones. What has to happen before the patient can be discharged? Pain management, activity level, self care in the hospital, a safe place to go upon discharge. If the acute care is elective, its scouting out the official communication routes: who’s the charge nurse, where’s the patient relations office, will you be communicating with a hospitalist, an attending, a resident, or a student?  Who’s in charge of the overall care for this episode? Charles Inlander’s book, Take This Book to the Hospital with You gave voice to my early nursing career observations that the health journey was a risky place.  I had realized that my role as a nurse to be a patient advocate was valuable and necessary, but insufficient. Acting as an advocate for a son when he had cancer, I didn’t know as much as I thought about what he wanted and how I could be of help and not get in his way. We had many discussions together and as an immediate family about death and dying, about treatment options, about communication with extended family. So challenging to integrate my perspectives, emotions, fears and put his first. Thankfully, it wasn’t just me in that role. We had an advocacy team – my wife, other sons and their partners, his girlfriend and her parents. We did pretty well. As a nurse I’ve been challenged by advocates. It’s been rare that the advocate was clearly identified. More often the tension between family members muddied the water. For end of life issues, advanced directives and durable power of attorney helps clarify, but most acute care episodes are not end of life.

I’ve embraced and learned about health partners as a patient, caregiver, nurse, and leader. I’ve had cyclical conversations with any family I might serve as a health partner, especially my mother and my wife. With my mother it took 15 years to arrive at comfort with the discussion. My sister-in-law, a nurse, was the best I’ve ever seen identifying and supporting health partners with her patients. She brazenly and tenderly included it as part of her routine first assessment of every patient she cared for and then included them in the routine care.
Then there’s private, professional advocates – almost 350 of them members of AdvoConnection.  What are your thoughts about health partners?

A new threshold – laid off

By Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient, Leader No Comments

As you were recently informed, due to the need to reduce operating costs, the Hospital is required to eliminate positions. Unfortunately, your position is one of those affected by this difficult decision.

A definite threshold in a health journey. Going through the stages of grief exiting one space and excited by new prospects as I enter the next. This is where some earlier posts on my blog come in: ResiliencySuperpowersRest, Improvisation.
What have I learned these past few weeks about the industry? Frantic rush to merge, expand, and cut expenses – dynamic tension between these simultaneous imperatives. A few organizations are well poised to consider, now what – many are not. The challenges of creating systemness and alignment from diverse cultures and entities, always endemic in health care, are now more pressing. Rapid, intense change causes teams within organizations to constrict, contract, protect. Leaders can leverage this stressful opportunity to create alignment by focusing on the patient, providers, and staff experience. Who can disagree with this beacon? Focusing on patient experience across the continuum of care is intrinsically rewarding – spiritually healing – and makes business sense because positive experience prevents leakage and increases loyalty. Clinicians are critical – they understand healing. Leaders need their help applying their craft to organizational health. Their jobs are harder, they need superpowers more than ever. They know where the system is weak and wasteful, just look at their workarounds – pearls  for change. Patients want their journey to be simpler and kinder – it’s far cheaper and more effective to anticipate their needs rather react to their dissatisfaction. Everywhere we find relationships requiring information and communication – patients, caregivers, providers, staff, leaders. Automate that sharing of information – bidirectional where possible.
I need to rest and heal to prepare for the intensely exciting new vistas ahead. I have worked my whole career to be ready for this moment. Be still my heart.

Thresholds

By Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient No Comments
We continuously cross thresholds in our journey to best health. A threshold is a beginning, a change – before you weren’t, now you are. You cross a threshold when entering a building, a room, a relationship, an experience. Cross a threshold as you park your car, enter a clinic, go for an MRI. Cross a threshold when your doctor or nurse enters the room or responds to your email, when you call your insurance company, when someone asks, How are you? Cross a threshold as you feel a lump, hear a diagnosis, throw up, panic, feel pain, fall. Before you didn’t, now you do.These thresholds upset our sense of balance, our inertia. The manifestation of imbalance can be spiritual, mental, and/or physical. Why me? Hopelessness, annoyance,frustration, fatigue The sense of imbalance when crossing a threshold can require or suck energy, depending on the moment and perspective.

A pivotal moment for me as a nurse was discovering the opportunities I had to experience some of these threshold crossings, moments of imbalance, with others. Having a companion or a guide at these moments is huge. A smile, a touch, information can change the trajectory of that crossing, speed the regaining of balance, add energy, provide relief, increase hope. My mission became: to increase the sense of balance patients, caregivers, and clinicians feel as they work together towards best health.

Threshold crossings occur around us constantly. Sometimes we notice them. How can we increase our personal and organizational capacity to be a guide or companion?

Magic Lever – Trust

By Consumer, Leader No Comments
Best health builds on trust. Trust in yourself, trust in your health team, trust among your team, and trust among the leadership of your health organization. Health is possible without trust, but best health is not. Trust is like the golden rule: simple, obvious, painstaking to attain. Trust contains self love, an open heart, self-confidence, vulnerability, fairness, humility, single-minded purpose, communication, risk. Best health is part genes, part environment, part right living, part luck. Much that can’t be controlled. Trust is somewhat controllable. Trust in yourself is marginally controllable.  I’m fortunate that I mostly trust myself. I feel like I’m trusting myself when in doubt about my choices I default to accepting my decisions and actions as right and good. I’m happy with 75% success. Doubt and regret take its toll. With MS I have to budget my energy carefully. Doubt and regret sap my energy. Trust in your health team is also somewhat controllable. I’m fortunate that I can select my health team members. Selecting some means rejecting others. I remember when I was grieving the loss of my son, Mike. I went through 3 grief counselors before I found one that I trusted and worked well for me. I felt lucky that I could find three. Many can’t. Although its been  years since Mike’s death, my grief counselor is a member of my health team and will always be. I trust him. I’m open to using his counsel when I need it. Trust among your health team can be elusive.  Fortunately, a team you choose is predisposed to trusting each other on your behalf-single-minded purpose. But when your team is a surgical team, a multi-disciplinary team, an inpatient team, a nursing home team, a rehab team, you have far less control of that team. They may or may not trust each other. Your advocate can be helpful in communication and single-minded purpose. A team that trusts each other will be more likely to focus on your best health, communicate with each other about you, be open to your uniqueness, and practice safely and kindly. As a leader, the most rewarding activity for me was building a team that trusted me and trusted each other. Once built, those teams did amazing work for you. The most distant trust is the trust among the leadership of the health organizations that care for you. Those organizations include clinics, hospitals, diagnostic centers, rehab facilities, home care … any organization serving you. Frankly, in my experience few health organizations are themselves healthy. The bedrock of a healthy organization is a leadership team that trusts each other. Trust within the leadership team is the same as trust for yourself: open heart, confidence, vulnerability, fairness, mission, communication, risk. Patrick Lencioni writes eloquently about organizational health. Read more in his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. I have spent most of the last 20 years of my career as a change agent and choreographer. The heights attainable are directly related to organizational health, especially the trust within the leadership team. Sustainable best health of an organization is hard work and elusive, but hugely rewarding for customers, staff, professionals, and leaders. More about organizational health in future posts.