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Friday, January 16, 2015

Success at New Year's Resolutions: They're modern-day rituals

The poster near the Jewish Community Center's locker rooms proclaims in 288-point type:  "Rabbi Loses 35 Pounds!," and then nudges:  "Exercise and eating well are the new rituals."  

"This program transformed the way I think about meals, food and fitness.  I struggled for years to lose weight and keep it off.  But the TIO (Take It Off) program put it all together in a way that helped me shed pounds, get strong and fit, and feel good about what I eat and what I don't.  Checking in each week in a private session, along with personal training, has helped me keep on track.  I'm not going back to the way I used to eat, and I'm not giving up my regular workouts.  This has truly brought positive change to my life," says Rabbi Barbara Penzner. 

She is being the change, leading by example.  Her leadership in several other realms has been inspirational and life-changing, too.  To name just two:  Years ago, she helped form and guide the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, an important component of the coalition that brought universal health insurance to Massachusetts.  And she led the Hyatt Hotel boycott, which eventually led to fair treatment for hotel workers in Boston and across the country.

Joan Hayes has served as her personal trainer (and mine) at the Jewish Community Center in Newton, Massachusetts.  Thanks, Joan!

Read another story about sustaining healthier habits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Milford Regional’s PFAC Story, as told by Beverly Swymer [Part 1]

In June of 2012, as members of the Milford Regional Medical Center’s Patient/Family Advisory Council (PFAC), we were searching for a direction to go.  Dr. Jeff Hopkins, Chief of the Emergency Department, gave a presentation to us about the care of behavioral health patients in the Emergency Department and how the volume impacted the E. R. The patients who came to the E.R. needed follow-up care but the resources for staff to refer them to were very limited. With the deinstitutionalization (of mentally ill patients), the use of antipsychotic drugs can help to control the behavior of this patient population but this often results in homelessness and the revolving door syndrome. Patients with drug addiction and/or mental health issues and subsequent problems need active intervention and follow-up care.  They are a growing number of E.R. patients, often seen on an emergent basis.  These people are devastated; they do not know where to turn, so they seek out care and support in the E. R. and often arrive in a crisis state. The staff, not being trained in psychiatric care, aim to keep the patients safe, maintain their medicine regime and actively seek out appropriate behavioral health care support…essentially custodial supportive care while in the E.R. The result was long-term stays in the E.R. (sometimes this meant many hours or even days), which was troubling. It was especially difficult to place patients who’d been violent, children and those patients who had complex medical problems in addition to their behavioral issues as well as the difficulty of placement of behavioral health patients on the weekends.

As the PFAC Co-Chair at the time, I met with Dr. Hopkins to discuss how the PFAC could realistically have an impact on this issue.  We discussed ways to educate the community about the Behavioral Health Care crisis, and to identify ways to short-circuit the crisis step by connecting the E.R. patients to community services in a more timely fashion. This was our initial approach to define the role of the PFAC Subcommittee within the hospital: to define “better care”. We on the PFAC had a couple of meetings to discuss how to accomplish this effort. By September 2012, we started meeting on a monthly basis.

I became the head of the Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the PFAC at that time because I believed the PFAC, through collaboration with other healthcare providers, could make a difference in behavioral health care in the E.R.  I felt this issue impacts us all because it impacts health care in general as well as care in the E.R.  If ten of 30 beds are occupied with behavioral health patients, especially if occupied for extended periods of time, this impacts bed availability for all other patients. The goal of the PFAC Subcommittee was to find ways to improve care with better resources in the community and thus ultimately alleviate the impact on the E.R.

Assuming responsibility as Chairperson, my role through all of this was to get this challenging endeavor on track. Monthly meetings were and continue to be held. To develop a more comprehensive approach to this issue, we reached out to others who dealt with this patient care population. For example, we invited representatives from Case Management, Social Service, Nursing and Riverside Counseling Services to join the subcommittee in an effort to improve care of the behavioral health patient. It took a real strong collaborative approach and the PFAC was part of all of those discussions. As the PFAC Subcommittee chair, I worked with the E.R. behavioral health team to incorporate everyone’s input, obtain feedback from others and evaluated how it was all working.  I, along with other members of the PFAC Subcommittee, presented the PFAC and ED Behavioral Health Program at the Health Care for All PFAC State Conference at Holy Cross, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, the Juvenile Advocacy Group (JAG) Community Breakfast and at a webinar hosted by Health Care for All.

We formed a diverse group with Dr. Hopkins, Chief of the Emergency Department, community caregivers, a child psychiatrist, Riverside Emergency Services, Nursing, Case Management, Social Service and a family member who dealt first hand with the issues of trying to find care for her son in crisis, etc

We reached out to the E.R. staff for their input and perspective on Behavioral Health Care in the E.R., asking for their suggestions on how to improve care of the behavioral health patient while in the E.R. The nurses developed a list of very helpful suggestions to enhance the care of the behavioral health patient while under their care. Some creative but simple suggested improvements included: a predictable schedule, showers, attention to proper nutrition, an opportunity to take a walk, exercise, music, etc., since some of these patients were in the E.R. for days. This effort showed the staff we were willing to listen and we valued their input.

As a result of this collaborative effort between the PFAC, Emergency Department, Case Management and Community Benefits, we received a grant from the EOHHS (Executive Office of Health and Human Services). This grant enabled us to provide an educational program for the E.R. nurses interested in Behavioral Health and to provide initial funding for Behavioral Health nursing positions. The first group of behavioral health nurses became mentors for their colleagues in the E. R.  This initiative was very well received by the nursing staff.

An integrated team was developed comprising Case Management, ED front line staff, Riverside, and other mental health care workers. Patients are evaluated during daily rounds in the E.R. Therefore they all know where each patient is in their care management and what follow-up resources could be identified. At one time, for those patients on behavioral watch or at risk of suicide, we had security guards watching over them. A program was developed to train people as Patient Safety Advisors. These people are specifically trained to interact with the behavioral health care patient in the E. R. while they waited for individualized plans of care.

Next we looked into the community for resources available to provide timely care and counseling to the behavioral health patient population. Our thinking was if we could provide opportunity for timely care and support we could short circuit the need for crisis intervention in the E.R. at 3 am.  Information was presented to our PFAC Behavioral Health Subcommittee about the Interface Referral Service of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP). This service provides information about services available in and around the community and guidance in how to navigate the mental health system.  I, as well as others on the team, reached out and spoke with other communities who had successfully utilized this service. This was the first time this organization would be working in a hospital broad based outreach. In February of 2013, we signed a contract with Interface. In addition to making the information about this service available in our E.R, we notified (via letter) the schools, pediatricians’ offices, Counseling Services, Youth Groups in town, Library’s Youth Department, etc., all in an effort to make the public aware of this referral service.  This was one more step in our effort to make Behavioral Health Care better and available to our community when needed.  We’re trying to meet the patients’ needs for medication, personal needs, etc., with active intervention, not just custodial care in a hospital setting with a broad-based community outreach.

Stay tuned for Part 2.  In the meantime, read a story about other innovations by Patient/Family Advisory Councils at Milford and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Patient-centered TV: 24 hours a day

We love Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., Chicago Hope, St. Elsewhere, Marcus Welby MD, and all the others:  the drama of near-death experiences and rescue by wise, handsome doctors and beautiful nurses:  What’s not to like?

And hospitals love the publicity of real-life TV shows about their doctors and nurses as heroes, for it polishes their public image.  Some patients may like appearing on TV, too.

But not always.  Anita Chanko was horrified to see her husband’s death in an Emergency Room televised, without her consent, on ABC’s program, “NY Med.”  When her husband had been hit by a truck late one night and brought to the E.R., a doctor had blocked her from seeing him.  But they didn’t block the TV videographers who recorded the hospital’s treatment of patients 24 hours a day.  The hospital’s Vice President of Public Affairs explained that “you can’t buy this kind of publicity, an eight-part series on a major broadcast network.” 

If all patients formally consent beforehand to being broadcast, that is their choice.  But for me, if a hospital is concerned with my dignity and privacy, please don’t broadcast me at my most vulnerable and weakest moment for your viewers’ titillation.

Read a story about the Patients' Bill of Rights.  Thanks to Charles Ornstein of the New York Times for the story, “Dying in the E.R., and on TV,” and Dina Litovsky for the photo.