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Engage families to improve patients' care: Panelists

Posted On: Oct. 28, 2014 12:00 AM CST

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Health care organizations should engage the families of patients to improve medical outcomes and experiences while reducing potential medical provider liabilities, a group of medical experts said Tuesday.

Edie Alley, a clinical nurse specialist at Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Virginia, told how her mother died in 2010 following complications from hip surgery that had been expected to go well. While Ms. Alley saw signs that her mother's health was failing, such as low blood pressure and unresponsiveness, she said her mother's medical providers dismissed those concerns.

ASHRM President Jacque Mitchell, who also is the risk manager at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, said medical providers should listen to the concerns of family members such as Ms. Alley — even if they don't have medical training — because they know their family member's health history and often can perceive if a loved one's condition is worsening.

“Families are not visitors. They are part of the team taking care of the patient,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Their comments were made during a keynote presentation Tuesday at the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management's Annual Conference & Exhibition in Anaheim, California.

Providing a positive experience for patients and their families helps improve medical outcomes and leads to fewer hospital readmissions, said Jason Wolf, president of The Beryl Institute, a Bedford, Texas-based health care think tank. It also helps medical providers to improve care by being more in tune with the needs of their clients, he said.

“If we're providing the best experience, we find that people are engaged, they're activated (and) they're focused on the work that they do,” Mr. Wolf said.

Susanne Pryce, administrative director of the University of Michigan Health System Office of Clinical Safety in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said the hospital system has policies in place to communicate with the families of patients who died or had unfavorable medical outcomes. She said working with families has helped the health system modify and improve its procedures.

ASHRM President-Elect Ellen Grady Venditti, a Falmouth, Mass. risk management and patient safety consultant, moderated the panel.

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