I just got home from the 2nd Annual National Caregiving Conference in Chicago convened and hosted by Denise Brown and NationalCaregiving.com. You know the drill – most health care anywhere in the world is provided by family caregivers and parents. The attendees, mostly active or recent caregivers, networked over their shared lived experience. Presentations about caring for elders with dementia was the most common thread and topic. Occasionally I heard chatter about caring for children or depression. Sometimes the stories of frustration, exhaustion, and loneliness overwhelmed those of gratitude, survival, and inspiration. It’s hard for me to hear too many of the painful stories and maintain my pathological optimism.
I especially appreciated the session about surviving and blossoming as a couple while caregiving led by Frank and Lisa Riggi – heartfelt, practical, and humorous. 10 Activities to do With Your Spouse Every Year – 10!, Only 10? I ask many caregivers, “How goes your marriage/partnership?” Faces fall. Cathy Sikorski‘s keynote, Preparation, Frustration, and Surrender…Boldness Throughout Caregiving was an intriguing combination of hands-on, funny, and legal. Imagine you’re talking to the Cable Company. Be Bold!
Did you know that a third of caregivers die before their caree? Crazy? Not really. Caregiving wears you down, while caregivers put their caree before themselves. Self-care: I loves that theme. This crowd seemed to self-care better than many.
The entrepreneurial spirit shone. My favorites: Carla Macklin’s Adaptive Clothing; Mekhala Raghavan and Angie Creager’s bathing aids and fall prevention (Waiting for production of their vibrating neuro-responsive fall prevention mat and their wash and vacuum the water shower anywhere system. I’ll try anything for fall prevention for myself and narrow doorway bathrooms are endemic in older homes); Quikiks Hands-Free Shoes (I’m always looking for easy, safe, comfortable shoes); and Shirley Riga’s book, “Tools for the Exceptional Parent of a Chronically Ill Child” published by Strong Voices Publishing. Check them out! I love to hear what works for people. Solutions from the trenches rule! (I receive no compensation from anyone mentioned here.)
I attended as a panelist for The Family Connection: Supporting Essential Care Partners as Patients Transition to Home, with Geri Lynn Baumblatt, Mary Anne Sterling, and Cathy Crookston. Most nightmares I heard at the conference involved transitions to or from medical care. I did hear one story of the transition done very, very well. It can be done. If you’re lucky it’s because one person made a difference. It shouldn’t be luck. Caregiving is hard enough.
Caregivers: How do you manage your marriage? When has BOLD worked for you? What’s the best transition you’ve experienced?
Honor the caregivers. Help the helpers.
Payment for medical services is shifting from paying for volume (more visits, tests, visits, days = more money) to paying for value (quality of care). Makes sense. But what does value and quality of care mean? It means that physicians get paid an incentive (more money) for certain results (outcomes, process, actions). An example is readmission rates. If a physician’s patients are readmitted to a hospital after discharge more than most physicians, they don’t get the extra payment. There are roughly 1,000 of such quality measures. These quality measures are very important to us – people at the center of care (patients, caregivers, parents, direct care clinicians and staff) – because measurement strongly influences people and organizations who get paid for medical services. Following the money doesn’t necessarily mean better medical care, better health for us, better relationships among our healthcare teams, or better work life for our health professional partners.
I was nominated to sit on a CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)/Battelle Quality Measurement Development Technical Advisory Panel (TEP). The TEP had its first meeting in Baltimore last week. I was one of 19 Panel members (and one of two with expertise in all four of the selection criteria -Consumer Perspective, Clinical Content, Performance Measurement, Coding and Informatics). The TEP seeks to improve the process of developing measures. It isn’t trying to develop measures. The good news is that the TEP gelled as a team and the CMS/Battelle leaders seem open to, if not eager for, actionable advice. I am honored to have been asked to sit at this table.
As a Patient Activist and a change catalyst, I appreciate the formidable forces of inertia and the current business realities of the medical care industrial complex. What can little Danny van Leeuwen hope to accomplish? My goal in accepting this appointment is to find one lever that can move the Value-Based Measurement battleship three degrees toward value to people at the center of care. My superpower is to accept what is and go from there. After listening to my esteemed TEP colleagues, my perception of what is is:
- Measures serve to evaluate the performance of individual practitioners (not measure whether patients attain optimal health or how the team is functioning),
- Inertia is heading to further measure specificity by specialty and diagnosis (not toward the patient with more non-medical than medical determinants of health who is more than a sum of their diagnoses),
- Data for measurement exists primarily in claims, diagnostic systems, and Electronic Medical Records (much less patient-generated data and experience/perceptions of people at the center of care),
- Physicians bristle at the idea of being held accountable for anything they deem out of their control (rather than what can I do to contribute to improving whatever?),
- People at the center of care, insurers, and policymakers all feel ill at ease with uncertainty,
- Few, if any, incentives exist for data vendors to integrate their data (So patients, caregivers, and parents using the most health care dollars provide the bulk of communication at transitions in care, if they can do it at all),
- Testing measures in real-life seems to be an almost insurmountable challenge (so the link between measures and what they seek to measure and the link between measurement and value to patients is tenuous),
- Direct care clinicians are stressed and burning out – the proportion of time they spent documenting rather than caring is growing while they feel pressure to increase productivity (rather than technology helping to reverse those trends),
Jeesh. Houston, we have a problem. Read More
I read a post this week on the Society of Participatory Medicine’s blog about a nightmare attempt to obtain medical appointments as new patients. You’ve faced the poor listening skills, conflicting information about the availability of appointments, lack of sharing information about you within the clinic or insurance company, poor or no follow-up, waiting, waiting, waiting, that the author describes.
I’ve dealt with it, too, as a patient, caregiver, clinician, and quality management leader. So, how do health care clinics and insurance companies know about the challenges their patients/customers live through? The most common is through surveys. Surveys are blunt (not sharp) and fairly useless. Most health plans require clinics to administer the CGAHPS Clinician and Group Survey. Three questions on the survey include:
- Patient got appointment for urgent care as soon as needed
- Patient got appointment for non-urgent care as soon as needed
- Patient got answer to medical question the same day he/she contacted provider’s office
You can answer Never, Sometimes, Usually, Always.
Most health plans survey patients about health plan service:
- In the last 12 months, when you needed care right away, how often did you get care as soon as you needed?
- In the last 12 months, how often did you get an appointment for a check-up or routine care at a doctor’s office or clinic as soon as you needed?
- In the last 12 months, how often was it easy to get the care, tests, or treatment you needed?
See, not very informative. A score might be more than 80% of patients say Usually or Always? That could mean that 19 of 100 people responding are unhappy with their experience. Wow. How can anything be changed based on that result? Read More
If I was queen for a day, with a genie, and a clean slate…
The practice management staff of XYZ clinic routinely runs a program of all their patients’ data to predict those at risk for needing urgent care or hospitalization. The practice contacts Alice (one of many such patients or caregivers) pointing them to their practice portal or speaks with her on the phone with the module open to them. A module in the portal or caller from the practice asks Alice to confirm the accuracy of the data and allows or asks her to correct or fill in information used in the screening program. Alice can type or speak her responses. The module or caller asks questions about the current status of her treatment plan (activity, diet, meds, appointments, etc.), her current abilities and symptoms, and asks her if she has questions. Depending on the answers, Alice may be instructed to go to an Emergency Room. If she needs Urgent Care, another module opens up to a clinician immediately available by video who has access to the same data as Alice and her answers to the clarifying questions. They discuss her status, make decisions, order tests and meds as needed and update her treatment plan. If she needs neither emergent or urgent care, her next appointment at the clinic is confirmed or scheduled and Alice is reminded of her treatment plan and schedule and pointed to activities and community resources that may be of value in the meantime. When Alice arrives at the clinic, her clinician views the entries in the portal module with her and they discuss her status, make decisions, and update her treatment plan. For any of the scenarios, Alice’s questions are answered live or via the portal. Costs and out-of-pocket expenses are included. Read More
OMG, I’m upgrading my website. I started the blog almost 5 years ago setting up the website with help from my friends Eric and Jodi (this is my 305th post). Now I want more from the website. I’m adding two pages: Portfolio to share my articles, guest posts, interviews, and projects. How Can I Help You? For topics we care about and related resources. I’m determined to create it myself – much like my wife and I built a house – seriously ignorant, reading instructions, tutoring, advice, and making significant mistakes while putting one foot in front of the other persistently. Learning something completely new is a frustrating gas. Frustrating until you learn a bare minimum of the language, get the right tools, building a support team, and finding the growing mindset of I can do this!? Frustrating when you mess up big time – like a couple of days ago when I unknowingly loaded 13 sample posts with my new theme and they went out to all of you looking like spam. (Thanks for letting me know and hanging in there with me.) A gas when you stumble upon or are pointed toward a solution, when you can find the solution a second time, when you can start to see the creation, and when someone else appreciates it. Gosh, this sounds like living or supporting someone with a chronic illness, living in another country or community, playing music, going to school, or starting a new job. Read More
Pound for pound, the best health conference! A rare combination of small, local, action-oriented, inspiring networking, and relaxing. 40-50 attendees met in Grantsville, Garrett County, MD, population 766, for three days. Regina Holliday of Walking Gallery fame organizes and breathes life into Cinderblocks. The older I get, the more I seek people who collaborate to solve local problems that matter to them. 50% of the 30 presentations were literally local – from Garrett County and immediate vicinity. The rest came from as far as France and LA, Oklahoma, Texas, Boston, and DC to learn what works for each other. A sample: Read More
Screenwriting seems like such an opportunity. The storyteller imagines a dilemma, a journey, a cast of characters, and a community. They picture what will happen and presto – a play, a movie, a video. Everyday people have a health dilemma, find themselves on a journey, with a cast of characters, in a community – real life scenarios of care. Read More
I’m the son, Custodian, and Healthcare Proxy of my 89-year-old mother, Alice. I live in a different state. My mother has diabetes and is depressed. Her care team, besides herself and me, includes medical providers in various health settings, community support agencies, and a full-time caregiver that helps her schedule and get to health-related services. My problem is to understand what my mother wants for herself and to track who says they’re doing something for her (including my mother and me), what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it. I want to know what it takes to do it (Can she afford it? Can she get there? Does it agree with her? Who will be with her? etc.). I want to know if the actions have the effects we thought they would. I want to know what her risks are and how we plan to prevent or respond to them. I want to able to keep track of all this and keep it current. I want to share it or have it shared from day-to-day and from setting to setting even if I’m not present. Read More