Hospitals -- More than a Building, Part of the Community

I finally sat down to read the Community Connections publication put out by the American Hospital Association, a book full of ideas and innovations for health care leaders related to community programs around the country. The range of programs was interesting, from offering volunteer doulas to pet care during hospice to arranging for meals to be delivered home for food insecure seniors. I think that hospitals sometimes get a bad rap for their size and the amount of money they circulate in the community -- but they are often at the heart of communities in the United States in big cities and small towns.

I think that in our great cultural shift in health care we will see more partnerships and more preventive care -- both essentially important to our community health. From cultural health navigators who assist female refugees from the Middle East / Southeast Asia / Subsaharan Africa in Phoenix to training African American barbers how to measure blood pressure and serve as heart health advocates in DC -- identifying cultural barriers to health is important.

It's heartening to see things that didn't used to fall under "health" be recognized as part of our whole selves. For example, dinner programs for breast cancer support that include communications skills, nutrition, stress management, intimacy and finances, which both builds a sense of connection with the group but also recognizes that resources are needed for these challenges. A retreat for stroke survivors and their families meets similar needs in support, education and socialization.

Prevention is also more of a focus, looking to prevent falls and injuries by strengthening flexibility with exercise (Idaho), student health coaches for those with chronic conditions (Pennsylvania) and instruction for physically disabled individuals to play sports like fishing, swimming, wheelchair basketball and hand-cycling (Iowa.) A hospital in Oklahoma offers a drive-through flu shot clinic to encourage high risk patients. It's important to address the current issues while preventing future ones and there are many adaptations we can make to help keep communities healthy. I applaud hospitals for their innovation and compassion. 

Friendliest Conference Ever? Of course -- it was about empathy!

Patient experience is close to my heart, because it's a buzzword, but it matters. I'm glad people are paying attention to how the patient views the medical experience, and not just that care is delivered effectively. 

The Cleveland Clinic's Patient Experience Summit "combines empathy and innovation," and this year's theme was Empathy Amplified.  Each presenter selected music to come on stage to and it was fun to see what they selected, from U2's "It's a Beautiful Day" to "It's the End of the World as We Know It" by R.E.M.  This set the tone for a great conference, and even though there were more than 2,000 people there, by the fourth day, I had lots of friends!

Innovation needs to be about pressing where things are bit uncomfortable and the general sessions delivered a lot of surprises. 

1. The Ostrich Index. "We ask people to operate in a self-actualized peak experience and they know they should... but they just can’t prioritize that right now. It’s not about cost, access or transportation. It may be money issues, a lack of support, conflict, stress, debt, no time to exercise, substance use, sad, not sleeping, no spiritual outlet, no sex life or caregiving demands. Stress is real." -Alexandra Drane, Eliza and Seduce Health

2. Toxic Doctors = Darth Vader. "Silence is a moral issue. Silence kills. It creates a culture that undermines safety. Darth Vaders create a toxic environment. Staff can’t breathe. This allows incompetence, shortcuts and disrespect. Inaction is an immoral act." -Dr. Wyatt, Joint Commission

3. Machines Make Fewer Mistakes. "A combination of forces approach -- care anywhere and care in teams are already hear. Care by machines? Care by large data sets? On their way. Robots don't have to be perfect, they just have to make less mistakes than humans."

Given our Darth Vaders, maybe machines would be better? I love the honesty that we may not be providing what patients (who are human) really need. They repeatedly say they want to understand what's happening to them, be involved in the decision-making process and have people be nice to them (because they are very scared.) Seems reasonable, but the giant knotted system of health care is hard to turn around. This summit was a great step in the right direction and I applaud all involved.