A Fourth Question for Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: Patient Involvement

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jim murphyWe earlier created a list of ten questions that all healthcare workers and users can use to help create the ideal healthcare organization.  Asking questions is something that anyone can do and is a necessary beginning to improving organizational practices and culture.

First on our list was whether the organization is providing patients all and the right kind of healthcare that they need.  Second was how well respect and compassion are exhibited in that process.  The third item was whether people are getting all the information they need about their care.

The fourth question is, “Are we properly involving patients in choices and outcomes?”  Patient involvement has of course become something a mantra in healthcare is recent years. BMJ is launching a new journal on this topic, to be “produced collaboratively” by patients and care givers.

Just as attitudes (among healthcare professionals and among patients) have led to increasing patient information, so allowing patients their full voice regarding their treatment should be the aim of the ideal healthcare organization.  Too often the model seems to have been auto repair: the patient comes into the shop, is fixed, and is sent back on the road, with no involvement in or learning from the process.

Traditionally, when medical decisions have been made, it is has been by the doctor.  The patient might not even be informed doctor listeningabout what the options were, much less be allowed to choose among them.

Of course the rationale for keeping such choices out of the patient’s hands is that people don’t know enough to make such decisions.  But in a world of higher education levels and greater human rights, that thinking is unacceptable.  Rather, it is the job of health care providers to educate patients.

The ideal health care organization will thus provide training and other programs to enable all staff to provide patient involvement.  Communication skills are very important in this respect and should be a significant factor in employee selection and promotion.  Methods such as discussion groups and medical improv can be utilized.

Everyone in the organization has to be involved in this process.  Those in a leadership position need to create the initiatives and provide the resources so that patient involvement is understood and practiced.  Unit managers, regardless of their specific administrative roles, must be aligned with these objectives.  On the front lines, doctors, nurses, attendants, and other workers require the right attitude and skills to make this goal a reality.

Of course patients (and we are all in this role at times) should speak up, inform and involve themselves as best they can. Nowadays that is increasingly to be expected, but all healthcare employees have a duty to make sure that it happens.

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.  www.manage2001.com   jim@manage2001.com





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2 Responses to A Fourth Question for Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: Patient Involvement

  1. Jim Murphy says:

    Points well taken! There is a connection, too, to diversity, on which we have previously posted. To educate the diversity of patients, healthcare organizations need a diverse workforce.

  2. Beth Boynton, RN, MS says:

    This post does a great job of creating a vision that integrates patient empowerment throughout any healthcare organization. Thank you, Jim. I agree and would like to add two points: Educating patients is an act of empowerment and can be done at any level of education and should be. This makes it tricky for HC professionals b/c we have to meet patients where ever they are in their education and dependency. It is a continuum we need to learn and be adaptable to. An elderly man with an 8th grade education who has the same dx as a rocket scientist will have different needs and abilities with this regard. I’d also like to mention Patient Advocate, Martine Ehrenclou, M.A.’s book, “The Take-Charge Patient” as she does such a great job at both empowering consumers AND promoting their responsibility/accountability.

What are your thoughts?