I have a strong feeling I’ll be glued to Twitter for the next couple of days, following the chatter about the Cleveland Clinic’s third annual patient experience summit (the hashtag is #pesummit, for anyone who’d like to follow along).
This event is a pretty big deal, drawing big-name speakers and a substantial audience. That an organization the size of the Cleveland Clinic would even host something like this says something about health care’s growing realization of the importance of patient-centered care.
Want to check out what everyone is saying on Twitter? Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:
“Patients are people. Interesting, complicated, wonderful people. Listen to them.” Doug Lyons, patient #PESummit
— Cleveland Clinic (@ClevelandClinic) May 21, 2012
— Nicola Ziady (@nicolaziady) May 20, 2012
Doug Lyons, Cleveland clinic Heart transplant tells us to “connect with each pt thru confidence, compassion & character.” #pesummit
— Jake Poore (@jakepoore) May 21, 2012
— Kip Lee (@kipum) May 21, 2012
— Natalie DeGrandis (@NKDeGrandis) May 20, 2012
By the time the summit ends on Tuesday, attendees will have participated in sessions ranging from the use of the social media in health care to the role of empathy in patient-centered care.
So does this all mean that health care is finally getting it when it comes to the patient experience? Well, yes and no.
For the words “patient experience” to enter the language of health care providers is a huge step forward. Likewise the seriousness that many organizations are now bringing to their efforts to be more patient-centered. It’s being talked about in ways we didn’t see even as recently as five years ago.
But we still have a long way to go – or, to be more accurate, some health organizations and some individuals seem to be much farther ahead than others.
In some kind of coincidence, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Harvard School of Public Health and National Public Radio just released a new study on the experience of sick Americans – “sick” being defined as anyone who had a serious illness, medical condition, injury or disability requiring considerable medical care or an overnight hospitalization in the past 12 months.
Most were actually quite satisfied with their care. But fully one-fourth of them said they felt their condition wasn’t being well managed. Three in 10 said their doctor, nurse or other health professional didn’t spend enough time with them, and 25 percent felt they didn’t get enough information about a treatment or prescription drug. They also reported mistakes in their care – wrong diagnoses, wrong treatments and tests being ordered, hospital-acquired infections and more.
If health care is still struggling to deliver safe, appropriate care, how much harder will it be to ensure the care is also patient-centered?
This seems to be a culture change, and like all such changes, it’s much easier said than done.
A microcosm of perspectives is evident in a post and the online reaction that appeared a few months ago at the Hospital Impact blog. Guest writer Steve Wilkins describes an unsatisfying experience of having blood drawn at a hospital lab: There’s a long wait, the staff is perfunctory and no one really seems to value the patient’s convenience. “I began to feel like a rat in an experiment in which people were being socialized to accept poor service and like it,” Wilkins wrote.
Most of the response was supportive of the need for health organizations to really mean it when they claim to be patient-centered. “This is a great example of the total misalignment of what companies say and what companies do,” lamented one of the commenters.
But look at the reaction from a couple of other folks. “We don’t do the right thing anymore,” wrote one person. “We’re too busy allowing patients and families [to] make medical decisions they are not qualified to make, almost always with disastrous results. But, it’s all about ‘customer service’ these days!”
Someone else chastised Wilkins for going to a hospital for a routine blood draw: “We really would like everyone to have a truely wonderful Disney World experience while they are being treated for a very serious illness and even for those of you who are using our Emergency room as your primary care office but then there is reality.”
I also note with reluctance that while the roster of speakers for the Cleveland Clinic’s patient experience summit is lengthy and impressive, the majority of them are not… you know, patients, with an ordinary person’s perspective on what it’s like to be a patient.
It all begs the question: Is the patient experience actually being defined by patients themselves, or is it (still) primarily being defined by those in health care? Until health organizations can answer this question honestly, they’re unlikely to make the progress they really want in becoming more patient-centered.