Bridge to better care
Sessions focus on partnerships with patients, families
Patients and their families are an often-untapped resource of critical information that can enhance care, ease diagnosis and help to avoid a host of adverse events. That was a recurring theme at the recent 14th annual Patient Safety Congress held by the National Patient Safety Foundation from May 23-25 and drew about 1,200 attendees to a sprawling convention center just outside Washington.
The first official day of the conference kicked off with a plenary session in the form of a mini-play, in which a worried mother tried in vain to convey the seriousness of her young son’s condition to a busy and distracted emergency room physician. The boy, according to the scenario, had a serious infection that went undetected and he ended up in the intensive-care unit.
“Patient and family engagement has always been a priority of ours,” Diane Pinakiewicz, the NPSF’S president, said during an interview. “But it has higher visibility now because it’s finally getting some significant lift in the field.”
Susan Edgman-levitan, executive director of the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at 907-bed Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, led a session later that morning on the pressing need to partner more effectively with patients.
Patients and their families need evidencebased information and coaching to become more confident, she said, but conversely, clinicians also need to be trained to be more receptive. She cited a long list of opportunities to engage families.
For instance, in ICUS, where open visitation policies are just beginning to become the norm, family members of patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia can notify staff when the hospital bed is not reclined at the correct angle, an evidence-based practice that prevents further complications, she said.
Edgman-levitan advised the use of discharge quizzes to test patients’ and caregivers’ knowledge of treatment plans and medications. “Most patients feel at discharge like they’re about to be thrown off a cliff,” she told the audience. She also recommended using videos that explain procedures in detail, tools such as question lists that help patients make the most out of ambulatory visits, and the sharing of specific clinical pathways, complete with glossaries of clinical terms.
“When we involve patients and their families, we wonder afterward how we ever did it without them,” Edgman-levitan said.
Charlene Pennington, coordinator of quality, risk and regulatory compliance at 187-bed Reston (Va.) Hospital Center, said she came to the conference to learn more about ways to tackle her hospital’s top quality and safety priorities, which include central line-associated bloodstream infections, falls and discharge processes.
Stephen Powell, president and CEO of Healthcare Team Training, a company based in Fayetteville, Ga., called the conference “a great place to find the pulse of the industry each year.”
“I come to see what’s working for people, not just in theory, but at the point of care,” he said. “I’m looking for solutions that are spreadable, sustainable and scalable.”
A number of attendees mentioned the importance of the Partnership for Patients, HHS’ $1 billion patient-safety initiative first announced in April 2011.
“It’s trying to spread the success of the best, those early pioneers who have made it work, but it is a painstaking process,” Powell said of the federal government’s program.
Mary Beth Navarra-sirio, vice president and patient-safety officer for Mckesson Corp., and a co-chair of next year’s conference, said the collaborative structure of the Partnership for Patients offers opportunities for synergy with NPSF and other organizations.
Pinakiewicz also gave an update on the recently launched credentialing program for Certified Professionals in Patient Safety, which measures safety-related knowledge and competency in six areas: culture, risk identification and analysis, data management system design, leadership, external influences and mitigating risk.
Since the test became available March 5, 280 50-question practice exams and 116 full exams have been purchased, she said. So far, 82 professionals—including physicians, pharmacists and nurses—have been credentialed, Pinakiewicz said.