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.”
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.