MITSS Annual Dinner

Support Patients and Care Teams, Keep Technology in Its Place

Bridget Duffy is more than a leader in the patient experience movement; she is also a champion for the needs of clinicians. The interests of patients, families, clinicians, and all others involved in healthcare should aligned in  systems that devote resources to supporting human relationships that are central to good patient care and outcomes. Technology is important and should be used to improve—not diminish—human experience.

Duffy was a natural choice to be keynote speaker at the annual MITSS fundraising dinner held in Boston on November 2, 2017.

Linda Kenney’s organization, MITSS (Medically Induced Trauma Support Services), has been helping people heal and regain hope following adverse events, regardless of their role. Kenney began this work as a patient, having nearly lost her life to an adverse anesthesia event in 1999. Very early in her recovery, she realized that anyone—including her anesthesiologist—involved in any way might feel shaken when things go wrong and benefit from emotional support. Kenney’s approach to managing the emotional fallout of adverse events helps bring people with different backgrounds and interests together at times of great challenge.

In keeping with MITSS’ vision of “a more compassionate, people-centered healthcare system,” Duffy focused her speech on the contributions and needs of people who serve in different roles in healthcare. She called for realigning priorities to make sure that our systems are human-centered and therefore more likely to be safe and effective.

Technology’s Place in Human-to-Human Healthcare

Duffy expressed mixed feelings about the role of technology in healthcare. In addition to providing dramatic medical advancements and improving many aspects of care delivery, Duffy feels technology as currently implemented often interferes with the clinician-patient relationship and contributes to burnout. Expressing great concern for the current epidemic of burnout among clinicians, Duffy suggests redesigning care processes to support the human experience of frontline clinicians. “Remove [technological and bureaucratic] hassles and amplify joy” should be among the goals of system improvement.

To improve the experience of patients, Duffy says it is most important to address care team well-being and resiliency and restore joy in work. Then, providers must understand each patient’s goals and priorities as they work with them and their families to develop treatment and care plans tailored to their circumstances. Organizations should ground that patient-centered approach on principles of high reliability. Only then will safety and quality be improved.

Duffy believes in process improvement for efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability, but only when pursued in ways that support the experience of patients and clinicians. In short, she wants to “humanize” the way technology is implemented and care delivered, honoring patients as people (not just as patients) and clinicians for their motivation to help people become and stay healthy. Duffy observes that “we’ve forgotten what business we’re in; we’re in a human-to-human business.”


Susan Carr Susan Carr is a medical editor and writer specializing in patient safety and engagement. In addition to curating the EngagingPatients blog, she produces publications for the Betsy Lehman Center in Boston and the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. Susan lives and works in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

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