By: Maciej Karpinski
The Champlain LHIN and Change Foundation Healthcare Primary Care Congress (last March 28/14) began with a simple, personal story. A young girl shared her moving account of spending most of her life in-and-out of hospitals. She spoke first about her experience with the children’s hospital and then about her transition as she grew older, to go to a regular hospital. The inevitable move was a scary change. She felt overwhelmed, ignored, and scared going from her known, pediatric environment that was designed to be a “home” to an impersonal, adult “caseload managed system” setting.
The mixed Ottawa-area audience of patients, caregivers, local healthcare leaders, and providers leaned in to listen closely.
Her individual narrative got the room thinking, sharing, and talking. Many of us consider the hospital as an institution designed to deal with emergency health problems as fast as possible. But for others, the hospital and similar institutional facilities become a type of second home because of the nature of the illness/ long-term condition(s). If all hospitals ran on the premise of trying to replicate the “home” experience by creating that relaxed, comfortable feeling – no matter how long the interaction – think what a game-shifting difference this might make.
This idea of creating the “home” experience in healthcare settings surfaced numerous times in the morning session by various patients. On the other side, as healthcare professionals from a variety of fields mulled the concept, there was a growing realization that more needs to be done to make patients feel comfortable, respected, safe, and loved.
Caregivers: A Critical Part of the Care Team
Looking to collaborative solutions, the participating healthcare providers and stewards were asked what they were doing to involve patients and caregivers in their own care.
Examples surfaced, including: recovering patients were being encouraged to set realistic but simple goals, like walking the dog or going to a karate lesson. Many participants (providers/patients/caregivers) emphasized the importance of including caregivers in these plans. After-all, home is really about community, which includes healthcare professionals as well as loved ones. In line with this approach, there was recognition that caregivers provide an important role in helping the patient meet their needs. This critical partnership is very important especially when the patient is discharged from a healthcare institution to resume life with normal activities, duties in their own home.
As a caregiver to my mother for many years, I know how important it is to be treated as an integral part of her care team. And sharing my caregiver voice/experience is a key reason I joined The Change Foundation’s PANORAMA panel.
Last Word to Patients
Turning back to patients, the forum posed: what would make the healthcare experience more positive (i.e. home-like)? Participants said that the simple things count a lot. For example: 1) reducing healthcare jargon and speaking in clear language helps patients move within the system/and better understand their own care 2) using interviews to get at a person’s health goals improves care planning 3) using mood & pain scales helps patients/providers manage care together.
A simple “how are you?” is sometimes all it takes to make a cold/clinical setting feel more like home. That morning, everyone at my table recognized that it is important to remember that we are all human, and that the relationships we make throughout the healthcare journey have a big effect on the health of our mind and body.