Ten Tips for Starting, Strengthening and Sustaining An Effective Care Partner Program

Ten Tips for Starting, Strengthening and Sustaining An Effective Care Partner Program
By Sara Guastello, Planetree Director of Knowledge Management
Care Partner Banner Image

When Planetree Coordinators and Patient Experience Officers get together, tremendous learning and sharing occur.  Recently, such a group convened virtually to discuss challenges and solutions for creating and maintaining an effective Care Partner Program, a patient-preferred practice wherein a patient’s or long-term care resident’s family is formally embraced as a member of the care team, assuming mutually-agreed upon responsibilities related to patient care.

Within this broad definition of a care partner, there are many variations in how healthcare organizations across the continuum of care are actualizing this heightened level of family engagement.  The summary below captures ten tips imparted by Planetree members for implementing, quality checking and maintaining an effective and sustainable Care Partner Program.

Getting Started

  1. Engage patients and family members as your program co-designers.  The Patient Partner Program at Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton, Colorado began as a pilot, developed collaboratively by a team of staff and members of the hospital’s Patient Partnership Council.  According to Marcie Demchuk, the perspective that patients and family members brought helped the entire team to better anticipate and proactively address potential program pitfalls.  One example?  Patient and family partners expressed that without a more concrete inventory of supportive measures available to patient partners, family would hesitate from making requests for themselves.  Asking “Is there anything I can do for you?” of the Care Partner is too passive an approach, they advised.  As a solution, the team of staff and patients/families developed a printed menu of supports available to patient partners upon their request.
  2. Be mindful not to overlook key resources when developing and deploying your Care Partner Program.  Hindsight was 20/20 for the team at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tennessee who initially neglected to involve members of the hospital’s social work and case management team in developing their Patient Support Program.  It soon became evident, though, that enlisting the support of these key team members would be invaluable for identifying patients arriving through the emergency department who may benefit from the support of a Patient Support Partner. Continue reading “Ten Tips for Starting, Strengthening and Sustaining An Effective Care Partner Program”

Sharp Memorial Hospital’s Health Information Ambassadors

Sharp Memorial Hospital’s Health Information Ambassadors


To better meet the health information needs of patients and families, the librarian of Sharp Memorial Hospital’s Cushman Wellness Community Library implemented the Health Information Ambassador (HIA) role.  Health Information Ambassadors are trained volunteers who visit inpatients, inquire if they have health information needs, submit requests to the librarian, and deliver content back to the patient and family. This innovative use of volunteers has enabled the hospital to enhance its ability to ensure patients and families are “provided education as well as access to a wide range of health and medical information,” consistent with Planetree Component #3 – Promoting patient education, choice and responsibility.
HIA Flowchart Continue reading “Sharp Memorial Hospital’s Health Information Ambassadors”

Using Patient-Centered Performance Management to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement in a Free Standing Emergency Department

Using Patient-Centered Performance Management to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement in a Free Standing Emergency Department
Carla A. May, RN, MN, CEN, FSED Manager, Kadlec Regional Medical Center, as interviewed by Lisa Platt, MS, EDAC, LEED AT BD+C, Director of Business and Product Development, Planetree

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Carla May who is the Manager of Kadlec’s Free Standing Emergency Department (FSED) located in Richland, Washington. FSED Callout In addition to being a Planetree Designated® site, Kadlec’s FSED is also an exemplar of how healthcare organizations can operationalize quality management tools from systems like LEAN and Six Sigma to achieve maximum care process efficiency.  The element that makes their approach especially distinctive and effective is the fact that they are able to achieve these improvements while concurrently enhancing the patient and the staff experience.

LP: Carla the way you have mobilized LEAN and other process improvement tools in your FSED setting seems to be really unique but very effective.  Could you tell us how you got started with this approach? 

CM: I think the catalyst was when Kadlec made the decision to build this building.  We started the process with a LEAN 3P event that looked at how we would design the building to better support the process of delivering patient care.  While I did not know anything about LEAN, I was actually very excited about the opportunity to build around the ED process rather than build our process around the building.  When we actually started to learn more about it I realized that a lot of its methods are just good common sense. The lightbulb kind of went off at that point.  I realized we were using this to really look at how we could design the healthcare facility around a process that benefits the patients.  Approaching it in this way we were able to have input right from the very beginning of the plan development.  We got to talk about and think about what were the most important characteristics from the patient perspective and how are we going to use this to not just design the building but develop our care delivery practice.  Our 3 very important critical success factors were 1) Length of Stay  of  less than 90 minutes for discharge patients; 2) no waiting in the waiting room and 3) achieving a door to doc time of less than 10 minutes – all while providing excellent patient care.   It was just so important that we had those critical success factors.  We asked ourselves every step of the way things like “Is this going to get the patient their care faster?”  “Is this going to facilitate the patient seeing the doctor faster?”  Basing all of our decisions on these critical success factors was an essential part of our process.

I lived and breathed this method of process improvement during design development and construction.  When we finally opened I thought “OK great now I am done!”  Little did I know that is when it all started! After we had the entire facility infrastructure in place everyone started looking at it and asking me “OK, so how are we going to make this work on a day to day basis?”  After we opened I was challenged with implementing LEAN into the day-to-day operations and that was a real challenge. That’s when I had to dig down into my creative thought processes.  I had to reconcile myself to the fact that everyone I am working with and bringing on to this staff may not think like me, and certainly has not had all the training on this process.  I had to think about how I was going to convince them that working this way made sense. Continue reading “Using Patient-Centered Performance Management to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement in a Free Standing Emergency Department”

Planetree Launches National Demonstration Project to Promote Use of the Patient Preference Passport

Planetree Launches National Demonstration Project to Promote Use of the Patient Preference Passport

Now Accepting Applications to Participate.  Deadline to Apply: March 9

From ACO requirements, population health incentives and Meaningful Use standards to Patient-Centered Medical Home recognition, Value-Based Purchasing and HCAHPS scores, patient engagement is a prevalent feature of numerous healthcare policies aimed at achieving the Triple Aim: better care, better health and lower costs. Passport in Use Image

Effective patient engagement is so much more than patient portals and HCAHPS scores, though.  Engagement starts with trust, effective communication and the establishment of a partnership between the patient and his or her caregivers.

But how?  The Planetree Patient Preferences Passport, recently hailed by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and Fierce Healthcare as a solution for involving patients more actively in their healthcare, changes the conversations that occur between patients and caregivers by focusing in on what matters most to the patient.  Informed by the Patient Preferences Passport, care planning incorporates patient-defined preferences, as well as the patient’s definition of a successful outcome, and positions patients for improved self-management and care coordination.

Now, you can put the Planetree Patient Passport to work in your organization.  Planetree is launching a national demonstration project to promote use of the passport and measure its impact on patient-reported outcomes.

Learn more about the demonstration program here or contact Jim Kinsey, Planetree Director of Member Experience at jkinsey@planetree.org or 203-732-1365.

8 Steps to a Quieter Environment

8 Steps to a Quieter Environment
By Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D., President and CEO of Healing HealthCare Systems

Although we try to reduce the patient experience to a set of HCAHPS questions and satisfaction survey scores, it is not merely a set of perceptions, but rather, it is a gestalt, the totality of many events that merge into a single experience.  The patient experience is a lived moment, an event, an injection, an examination at a time.  Because of how our minds work, the long journey of each day becomes blurred and patients remember only what stands out to them.  They may not remember each minute of every hour of their hospitalization.  They will recall extraordinary acts of kindness and consideration.  However, they will also remember the agony of waiting for the next pain medication, not being able to sleep, and hearing the nurses or others laughing just beyond their door. They will also remember if their room became their personal prison, untidy and unchanging.  For this reason, we should not minimize the important role that patients’ environmental interactions play in creating and influencing the patient experience—particularly when it comes to the auditory environment.

The Power of Sound

The sensory system is the interface between the patient and the environment.  The auditory reflex overwhelms all other reflexes.  Hearing survives darkness, coma, and anesthesia.  Sound can survive all attempts to control it, especially when sourced from human behavior and activities.  It bounces off walls, penetrates doors, and travels down long corridors.  Then there is hospital noise, which causes undue anxiety and interference, distraction, and distrust.

Studies indicate that behavior modification is the least effective method of reducing hospital noise.  Efforts to manage noise that use technologies, such as noise meters, have not been effective over time. Why can’t we clean up our auditory environment the way we clean up a cluttered room? Continue reading “8 Steps to a Quieter Environment”

Expanding Affordable Access to Prescription Medicine for Your Patients

Expanding Affordable Access to Prescription Medicine for Your Patients Familywize

We are all dedicated to putting patients first.  To support you in your efforts to make this philosophy an actionable practice at your organization, Planetree continually searches for like-minded organizations who can help you to make this a reality. FamilyWize educates, provides transparency, and assists people in gaining affordable access to prescription medicine. FamilyWize has helped nearly 8 million Americans gain access to less expensive medication through years of advocacy and thoughtful partnership (Including great relationships with the United Way and Health Systems across the country).

Despite the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, many patients continue to struggle to pay for their prescriptions due to increasing co-pays and deductibles and the rising cost of medicine – even those with private insurance. FamilyWize can work for everyone:

  • The FamilyWize Program is free and there is no qualification required – use it right away at nearly all pharmacies nationwide
  • 100% of the negotiated discount passes through to patients – FamilyWize is a Social Enterprise
  • 43% average savings on prescriptions – covers all FDA approved drugs
  • 46% of prescriptions filled are $15 or less
  • The online drug price lookup provides instant pricing on all meds at all participating pharmacies
  • The program is very easy to implement and FamilyWize provides ongoing support

In short, Planetree and FamilyWize have a mutual commitment to Patient-Centered Care.

We recognize many people are struggling to pay for prescription medicine, and there is a clear need for education and pricing transparency. Planetree supports FamilyWize’s efforts and encourages Planetree members to work with FamilyWize to assist their patients in gaining access to medicine.  If interested, please contact Ellen Imber at Familywize (eimber@familywize.org or 1-800-222-2818, ext 135)

The Planetree Patient Preferences Passport: An Innovative Tool to Drive Patient and Family Engagement

The Planetree Patient Preferences Passport: An Innovative Tool to Drive Patient and Family Engagement
By Jim Kinsey, Planetree Director of Member Experience

Patient activation has been identified as the “blockbuster drug of the century” (Health Affairs, Feb. 2013).  That’s a dramatic statement, to be sure, but it is based on evidence that engaging with patients and family members in decision-making, care planning and evaluation of outcomes is a potent determinant of high quality, high value health care.  This bold declaration that patient activation yields better healthcare outcomes at lower costs has rallied many in the field to examine what it means to engage patients and family members.  Planetree has been examining this question for nearly 40 years—by first asking patients and family members how they want to interact with their healthcare providers, and then developing approaches to operationalize care processes and develop training and resources to facilitate those kind of compassionate, respectful and mutually constructive interactions.

The latest of these offerings is the Planetree Patient Preferences Passport, and an associated educational and training program.

The Passport

The centerpiece of the program is the Planetree Patient Preferences Passport, Patient-Preference-Passportan iteration of a patient passport created by the National Quality Forum (NQF) with significant input by NQF’s Patient and Family Engagement Action Team.  Available in both hard copy (pictured here) and electronically as a free app at doctella.com, the purpose of the tool is to provide an easy-to-use vehicle for capturing patients’ personal preferences as they relate to their health care, their health and well-being, and their goals.  The questions included in the passport derive from patients and family members themselves, drawing on personal experiences of what they felt was important for their caregivers to know when planning for their care.  The passport serves multiple purposes.  It: Continue reading “The Planetree Patient Preferences Passport: An Innovative Tool to Drive Patient and Family Engagement”

Focus Groups: An Essential (Not Extraneous!) Tool of Patient-Centered Care

Focus Groups: An Essential (Not Extraneous!) Tool of Patient-Centered Care
By Sara Guastello, Planetree Director of Knowledge Management

Patient-centered quality improvement begins with the voices of patients and families, and relies on the perceptions of these consumers of health care to help identify priorities, drive improvement and evaluate results.  Today, health care organizations have many tools at their disposal to access these paramount perspectives—mail and phone surveys, point-of-service electronic questionnaires, rounding protocols, patient and family advisory councils, discharge phone calls, one-on-one interviews, mystery shopper initiatives and patient shadowing, to name just a few.

Given this expansive array of methodologies for amplifying the voices of patients, have focus groups become obsolete?  Hardly, says Planetree!  On the contrary, focus groups remain a vital component of any health care establishment’s efforts to achieve a greater understanding of the experiences, attitudes and behaviors of their patients, employees and community-at-large.  That is why Planetree has emphatically and continuously relied on focus groups to anchor its model for patient-centered quality in the lived experiences of those on the front-lines of health care.[1] We conduct approximately 200 patient focus groups every year, annually accessing the perspectives of nearly 1500 patients and family members, and using their insights to drive patient-centered quality improvement through involvement in policy efforts, research and advocacy.[2] Rooted in their voices, the Planetree methodology has remained relevant and responsive for more than three decades, even in the face of tremendous changes in the global health care marketplace. Continue reading “Focus Groups: An Essential (Not Extraneous!) Tool of Patient-Centered Care”

Strategies for Mobilizing Patients to Engage in Shared Decision Making

Strategies for Mobilizing Patients to Engage in Shared Decision Making
By Dorothea Wild, MD MPH Dr. med.
Primary Care Physician and Director, Planetree Germany

Imagine this: Mrs. Smith, a patient of yours, suffers from degenerative joint disease in her back. She comes to your office to see if it makes sense to have surgery. Because of a computerized decision aid, Mrs. Smith has already been educated about the various options and the fact that there are trade-offs between those options. She has viewed evidence about risks and benefits, and is clear about what her preferences are, and what information she still needs from you. Now you, as her provider, don’t have to spend your limited time with her repeating information that is readily available elsewhere. You can spend your time exploring with her what the best decision is for her, given her preferences, her values, and her unique situation. That is the aim of shared decision making.

What is shared decision making?

In shared decision making, clinicians and patients communicate together using the best available evidence to arrive at informed preferences in making a decision. The principle is nothing new, but the model has the promise for better decisions through actively involving patients in identifying their preferences and values, and in the use of decision aids. Decision aids can be paper-based or electronic, and are effective at facilitating shared decision making.[1] High quality decision aids do more than just present information on options: They stimulate patients to think about their preferences and to clarify their values; they offer information from patients who have undergone the procedure themselves, and they have been evaluated in prospective trials. Decision aids can be given to patients before or after the consultation to prepare decisions and clarify options. Many patients find it easier to clarify what is important to them and share private information with a computer than in the consultation setting. However, decision aids are not widely implemented. Continue reading “Strategies for Mobilizing Patients to Engage in Shared Decision Making”

Patient-Centered Solutions for Improving Transitions of Care

Patient-Centered Solutions for Improving Transitions of Care
By Jill Harrison, PhD, Planetree Experience Advisor

The Affordable Care Act has spurred some important additions to popular phrases used in healthcare in the last few years.  The word “discharge,” for example, has been replaced with “transition” in the familiar phrase from “Admission to Discharge” which brought attention to the patient pathway in acute care.  “From Admission to Transition,” is the new phrase which signals the increasing responsibility of healthcare organizations to maintain consistency and continuity of care for patients beyond their “discharge” from the organization’s doors.Transition_Advantage_4-web

In a recent Planetree online course on transitions of care, participants were asked to consider the ways in which a patient becomes a sort of “hot potato” during transitions of care.  That is, as a patient is discharged from one healthcare setting to another, they may feel as though they are bounced and tossed among providers, and eventually dropped due to a lack of information exchange and care coordination.  Flaws in the transition process are a well-known predictor of unnecessary hospital readmissions.  So, how do patient-centered organizations protect their patients from becoming proverbial “hot potatoes” during transitions of care? Continue reading “Patient-Centered Solutions for Improving Transitions of Care”