Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV.
Engagement– we talk about engagement so much in the business of health care– engaging with our partners, our employees, our community, and with each other. We do all of these so well at the Highland companies. But one of our most important types of engagement is with our patients and their families– assuring that they are involved in their care, that their experience is positive, and that we meet their needs during their time with us. Some of this experience we capture in our patient satisfaction surveys. We will be expanding and refining these surveys this year to better engage our patients and their families in helping us make their experience better. We have invested in a patient-centered health home model that we will be implementing in our primary care center at Process Strategies—and our new electronic medical record will have a patient portal, allowing patients to get more involved in their own care. Putting the patient at the center of care will allow us to engage with those we serve in different and better ways. And, building a client base who is engaged with us can only serve to increase our market share in a time when we are competing against many other interests.
But surely there must be more ways to collaborate with those we serve to engage them in their care, and to improve our care systems. I’ve spent some time with families of our patients who have volunteered to tell me their stories, and to help us think through where there are gaps in services in our area. Can we expand and formalize these opportunities for patients and families to help us understand their needs as seen through their eyes?
I recently read an article that reported perspectives on patient engagement presented by Wil Yu, who is the Director of the Foundation for Healthcare Innovation. In this article he talked about how mindsets can be changed in our culture. He used the example of a recent episode of the popular TV show, set in the 1950’s called Mad Men. In this episode, the family dumps their litter from their picnic onto the ground. While this may have been commonplace in the 1950’s, the question becomes, what happened to create the social change that sees littering as inappropriate today? Mr. Yu relates this social change to the change that needs to occur to engage patients more in our healthcare system—transforming our system into one in which it would be unacceptable to not have patients involved in their care, and in our system.
Mr. Yu feels that there are several conditions that need to be in place for this transformation to occur—personal communication at the emotional level; a focus on changing mindsets; incentives; visible leadership; clear opportunities for patient participation; and technology. I think we have some of these conditions in place—and we can certainly grow the others. As we move through this year, let’s think about how we can better engage our clients and their families in improving their experience in all of our care systems–full engagement can only make our care systems better–and ultimately positively impact each of those we serve. I am eager to help us make this transition—and hope you will join me with your ideas.