Annenberg Conference sends a patient's
message: "Nothing about me without me"
From the May 1, 2002 issue
Last week in Indianapolis, the National Patient Safety Foundation
held its Fourth Annenberg Conference, Patient Safety: Let's
Get Practical, with about 700 people in attendance. While
so many worthy topics were covered over the course of three
days, an unmistakable theme emerged: Patients and Family.
Indeed, by the end of the conference, it became clear that we
need to renew our efforts to fully engage patients and families
in the healthcare experience, not just as victims of disease
or injury in dire need of our expertise and care, but as equal
partners on a level not previously imagined just a decade ago.
While involving patients in their healthcare may seem straightforward,
even intuitive, the speakers at the Annenberg Conference helped
sketch out the challenges that we face in achieving this goal:
One of the closing speakers at the Annenberg Conference
summed up the patient's perspective by noting a quote that
was posted in a hospital lobby, "Nothing about me without
me." Let's follow this wise advice.
- We won't be able to engage patients and families in their
healthcare and safety unless it's a top priority, fully
supported by senior leadership.
- We won't connect with our patients on a personal level
unless we are willing to share our personal stories with
them. Likewise, we won't really know our patients unless
we take the time to listen to their stories - not just their
medical stories but their personal stories, too.
- We won't empower our patients until we include them and
their families as equal members of our interdisciplinary
clinical teams, actively participating in patient care and
the decision-making process.
- We won't improve our patients' adherence to a jointly
developed plan of care unless we provide good instructions
and make even the most complex of processes clear and easy
- We won't earn our patients' respect unless we treat them
with dignity and pay attention to the "inner patient."
- We won't earn our patients' trust unless we disclose our
errors. We won't feel comfortable disclosing errors until
we change our culture. Our patients won't listen to us unless
we begin to tell them what we are doing about the problem
of medical errors.
- We won't demonstrate our moral responsibility and just
accountability for medical errors until disclosure is accompanied
by a fair offer of compensation for injuries, not through
the litigious avenues currently available to patients and
families, but through thoughtful consideration of the financial
burden placed on the victims of an error and a sharing in
that burden up front.
- We won't truly show compassion to patients and families
until we can offer them emotional, physical, spiritual,
and psychological support in the wake of a sentinel event.
- We won't be able to motivate all patients to engage in
their own healthcare and safety without providing them with
the knowledge to do so and strong encouragement from programs
like the Joint Commission's Speak Up: Help Prevent Errors
in Your Care campaign.
- We won't have time to engage our patients until we improve
efficiency and safety of our systems and free our workforce
to carry out human tasks, most importantly, talking to patients
and their families.
We won't be able to give patients what they really want
unless we ask them what they want.