In our series on creating the ideal healthcare organization, we proposed ten questions that all healthcare workers can use to promote the idea of improvement. By the use of questions anyone – leader, professional, patient, visitor, or whatever – can help raise awareness and improve organizational performance.
Our third question is. “Are we giving patients all in the information they need truthfully and effectively?” The question of patient information has of course been a controversial one in medical history, and in recent years there has been a patient rights movement and a trend to federal mandates in this area.
Perhaps as a reflection of a general increase in human rights thinking, attitudes on these questions have changed. Not that long ago patients might not be told about a cancer diagnosis; no one would defend such a policy now.
A lot has been written on what information patients need to be given. There are legal and ethical issues involved and differing points of view. For example, one writer suggests that the basic principle can be to avoid surprises to patients.
The simplest and best approach is that patients should have access to all the information that organization has. In the first instance, this means all information about their condition – test results, diagnoses, history, prognoses, etc. Of course that includes medical errors and other unpleasant facts.
Furthermore, patients should be able to research their condition and potential treatments. The ideal healthcare organization can enable them to do so by having suitable intranet and internet resources available to all.
In the same manner, patients should have access to all institutional programs, policies and procedures. One way to conceptualize this is that in the ideal healthcare organization patients and staff form a community that works together.
If patients have access to such information, would that result in their second guessing their doctor or nurse? Very likely – but inspiring productive communication between staff and patients is something that healthcare organizations should strive for.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that such patients get the information they need? Everyone’s! Healthcare CEOs and other leaders should development, implement and continually improve information and communication systems. Unit managers should keep these issues actively considered at meetings. Nurses, doctors, and other employees should regularly attend to this question in day-to-day interactions. Patients themselves (perhaps with the assistance of outside sources) ought to accept responsibility for their own fate, educate themselves, and as needed insist on their rights.
–Jim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Being semi-retired, Jim is willing to provide very reasonably priced consulting, coaching or project work for organizations aspiring to improvement in organizational culture, effectiveness and employee engagement.
Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium. His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices. Having produced newsletters for several organizations and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.