As a patient advocate for 10-plus years for my father, mother, and now for my spouse who has chronic heart disease, the topic of patient engagement really hits home. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that if the healthcare industry is to succeed in reducing readmissions and improving outcomes, engagement must include the family. It may seem like an obvious statement to make when you’re talking about an elderly parent or a child, but it’s equally important for the spouse or adult sibling.
I had always looked to my husband for his sound judgment and clear thinking, until his most recent incident of heart failure which was brought on by arrhythmia. His mental acuity was hampered and I realized I would need to play a more active role in managing his condition — assure his discharge instructions are followed, monitor his compliance in taking prescribed meds, get smart about salt intake, etc – if I wanted him to rebound.
That said, I believe any discussion of patient engagement or collaborative care must embrace the family. I was encouraged to see in a recent all-day patient engagement program, sponsored by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) that leading healthcare organizations are starting to step up to the challenge of patient and family-centered care. Admittedly, it will mean a real cultural change for many organizations and physicians. However, I’m convinced it is the only way we can successfully change patient behavior and see measurable improvement in outcomes.