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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Visiting Hours Are NOT Over: Innovative Patient/Family Council Hospitals in Massachusetts

In my role as President of the Consumer Health Quality Council, I had the privilege of participating in a training session for Massachusetts hospitals yesterday on starting their patient/family advisory councils. These speakers mentioned specific improvements in partnering with patients that their councils have already inspired:

Susan Shaw of Children’s Hospital of Boston described many changes, e.g., the welcoming patient guide, the redesign of Family Sleep Space, and "Executive Family Walk Rounds," among others.

Karen Conley described how South Shore Hospital has greatly extended its visiting hours, focusing on the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and PACU. In the past, every evening the loudspeaker would intone, "Visiting Hours Are Now Over," forcing family members to leave their ill, scared, and vulnerable loved ones at their moment of greatest need. After this announcement was eliminated, the number of formal grievances fell by 94% from one year to the next! South Shore Hospital began using family-initiated rapid response teams in June (I hope to report more on this soon) and has several other very exciting ideas in development from its council.

At my visit a few weeks ago to the pediatric family advisory council of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Maureen Connor's team mentioned that parents had asked for and received a washer and dryer on the kids' floor so that the parents themselves could help keep their kids' bedding and clothes clean.

BRAVO TO THESE PIONEERING HOSPITALS! It's worth noting that none of these ideas costs hospitals much, if any, money, and yet mean a lot to patients and their families. I hope patients will tell their primary care providers and friends about these practices, so more patients get their care at those patient-friendly hospitals.

At the Consumer Health Quality Council of Health Care for All, we're asking Massachusetts hospitals to send us their plans as they complete them by the end of the month, so we can learn about and publicize more of the innovative ways that hospitals are becoming more patient-friendly.

Advice to patient advocates: Steer your clients to hospitals with productive and imaginative Patient/Family Advisory Councils.

Read our Council's testimony on the new Chapter 305 law that mandates these patient/family advisory councils. Thanks to Paula Griswold and Effie Brickman of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, and Tracy Gay of the Betsy Lehman Center, for organizing the series of conference calls as training sessions. Thanks to Marlene Fondrick of the Institute for Family-Centered Care for sharing IFFC's knowledge and resources in the calls. Thanks for the legwork by Linda Burgess, Nicola Truppin, Deb Wachenheim, and Alec Ziss of the Consumer Health Quality Council's work group on Patient/Family Advisory Councils.

For all of them on this Jewish New Year, may they be written in the Book of Life.

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