Monday, 30 November 2015

Patient Relations

Here's the background on the Patient Relations offices you may have noticed in hospitals in Canada:

“A well‐established patient relations structure and process, supported by the right personnel, is key to identifying gaps between patient expectations and experiences of care, and managing perceptions of patient expectations and quality of care.” From Excellent Care For All Act

To strengthen patient relations processes in Ontario’s hospitals... they are required to have patient relations processes in place and make information on these processes available to the public. Regulation 188/15 adds to these requirements; specifying minimum standards regarding the retention of data, providing standards for keeping patients or complainants informed, and ensuring that hospitals have a specific patient relations process.1

I was lucky enough to attend a conference where many patient relations professionals were sharing information about their work.

Some had inspiring examples of meaningful engagement with patients and family caregivers, where they were regularly collaborating with them on projects and acting on patient ideas and input. 

Many talked about plans to start involving patients in their hospitals but had not yet started to work on it. In some cases they were very busy just keeping up with their everyday work. In other cases senior management (or other staff) was not behind their efforts.

They presented lovely charts and graphs to their peers showing the types of patient issues they had to deal with, and how quickly they were able to resolve problems were presented. But... after hearing my friend's story about a patient issue that she wanted to have looked into, I wondered how they define resolution. When she asked her hospital contact for a progress report on her complaint she was told her case was closed, though she had no word of any results or consequences.

Patient Relations can't help this 'patient'

Despite sincere talk of being patient centered, there were a few comments I heard that sounded tone deaf like these two:

We'll "give" you (ie patients) decision making authority as long as it's a consensus.

And the idea of staff deciding "What is it that you want these people to say?" in the area of changing the conversation in making films for internal staff training makes sense in one way, but can also be interpreted just the way it sounds.

On one occasion I tried to compliment the hospital on a positive change but my call was not returned. The only time I made a complaint, about an issue that cost me an extra year on a waiting list, I was unhappy with the result. 

Patient experience is recognized as a method people use to determine the quality of their care, and the feedback that patient relations offices get reflects the experience. The insight it gives can help to drive change and quality improvement. 

I learned just last month that Accreditation Canada has made Patient and Family Centered Care a key standard starting in 2016. The presentation I heard at their workshop was impressive and their resolve was unmistakable.

The big difference, and you may have seen signs of this already, is that instead of doing things 'for' and 'to' patients, they will now focus on doing things 'with' patients. That means we'll see more information sharing, partnership, participation and collaboration.

If you're a patient who thinks things could be better in health care there's no better time to try get involved personally. The door is opening up for us as patients, or as family caregivers to make a difference.

1. From Health Quality Ontario Striving For Excellence in Patient Relations Processes in Ontario's Hospitals

Thursday, 26 November 2015

New Experience: Blogging With an Editor

Last month's guest post  for GeriLynn Baumblatt of Emmi Solutions was a different experience of blogging for me. Her topic for Health Literacy Month was Health Care Transitions and it took a lot of thought to find something in my health experience that qualified as a transition.

After I submitted the idea and we discussed the first draft I felt reassured by working with Geri Lynn to fine tune the post. Usually my husband and I are the only critics.

And I'm wondering, though I only have to ask, about the etiquette of being a guest blogger and whether I can post the blog here too.

Possibly not so I present the link to the post here.   The Title is "Graduating From Patient School: Health Literacy and Care Transitions" and is the story of how the naive patient I was at the before my diagnosis turned into the aware patient I am today.

The graphic she used was apt: How do we turn on the light bulb and change?

It took so many years to make that change - maybe if more information like what we access without a thought now, had been available then, the process would have been faster.

The post was part of a series about Health Literacy and covered many types of transitions. You can see the rest of the stories here.

PS to readers: I love the picture of the girl and the giant pill and am guilty of using it again this week to make a point.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Where's my Prescription Summary, Shoppers Drug Mart?

When I first saw the new Shopper's Drug Mart prescription receipt I did not understand what I was seeing. It changed to a label the size of a name tag with the backing still on it. I could peel it off but then what would I do? Maybe the idea is that I start a prescription scrapbook? 

I mentioned the difficulty I anticipated trying to save these slippery labels with 5 point type for my income taxes and my pharmacist said that I could ask for a list of the dollar value of my prescriptions every year for income tax purposes. That's a service that can help me, BUT I still need and want the listing of my last 20 prescriptions.

For me that list has been an essential tool. With it I can accurately give details of my medications to doctors. I also use it to list medications on forms at the hospital and in the Emergency Department. On Twitter yesterday some doctors said they also use those lists to go over medications with their patients, especially those who don't really know the medications they're taking.

Yet now that feature has been withdrawn with no notice, and no concern for patients, caregivers, doctors and customers.

Burden of care is added to by having no list.

When I look at the Loblaws Corporate website I see Chairman Galen Weston saying "We understand the breadth of our impact and influence." I appreciate that sentiment but wonder how many doctors and patients were consulted about this change that has a fundamental effect on my ability to manage my drugs and prescriptions.

I like the idea of the patient, family doctor and pharmacist as the basic unit for regular health management and decision making. But now, at the same time as Shoppers takes on more health services such as flu shots and Med Checks for profit, they are stepping back from the patient's needs.

My pharmacist responded to the problems I raised with:
"We all change and we expect our customers to change too." 
"You have to manage by yourself somehow." 
"Our expectation is that the patient will keep track of their medications."

Excuse me Shoppers, I am a highly literate patient and that is just one of the areas where I have challenges. Luckily at this moment I am not in a crisis but many of your clients are struggling with their health. Many of us stagger from crisis to crisis.

What about our aging population, people with low vision (Did I mention the 5 point type on the receipt?), and the more than half of Canada's population who are not health literate? 

Another statement on the Loblaw's website (Loblaw's owns Shoppers) is this:  "Our strong commitment to corporate social responsibility defines the way we do business and the role we play in society."

These statements do not match the Shopper's Drug Mart withdrawal of their useful and traditional prescription lists. 

I hope they will look for a solution to this problem which is either happening to us now, or will soon be apparent at a Drugstore near you if you are a Shopper's Drug Mart customer.

This is the top section of the form we will no longer be receiving.

Added after another visit to Shoppers: The pharmacist was able to produce a list for me on two full sheets of letter size paper that covered fewer prescriptions than the small summary of 20 that I am used to. Not convenient for me to carry and keep with me but at least I can use it for renewals. Not a solution, but as a stopgap it will help, though it required a lengthy conversation with the pharmacist before I was able to get that printout.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Change: Not the Kind You Need

It's been a long time since I put my change into a wallet. Now I just drop all the change straight into my purse - If I need some I shake the purse and scoop some up. It's too heavy to carry around so I follow Julie's example:

"I take any change out of my purse and put it in a container on my dresser.  When I have a bunch of coins, I give all of them to John and he either rolls it, uses it or takes it to the bank.  I don't usually pay for much of anything."  

Polly has a tougher time.

"My hands are claw-like now except for the thumb and the forefinger. I keep forgetting I don’t have use of those fingers like I used to so I am always dropping things.

Today I was standing in line and 5 cards from my credit card pouch fell to the floor......the lady behind me picked them up.  Then another one dropped and she picked that one up for me.  Thank you!  GOOD GRIEF!  I have to remember that only my thumb and forefinger are viable.  The rest are just taking up space.

Hard to type when your hand is not straight

Julie has another issue:
"You were talking about hands and fingers.  The other day, I needed to copy a bunch of papers and went to my main big printer and it would not work!  It said there was a paper jam that we could not find. I was also trying to use the automatic feed and the paper got caught in there. I finally got it working, but black streaks were on everything and the paper came out wrinkled.

Meanwhile, I thought that I would just use the other wireless printer.  Turned it on and it was out-of-ink!  Sent John to the office supply and he brought home 5 new cartridges (that is what the wireless printer takes).  I decided that I would change the cartridges while John was gone - big mistake!  Each cartridge was completely sealed in plastic and I had a devil of a time getting the plastic off.  Then an orange plastic thing has to be turned to be taken off before installation.  By this time, I could barely move my hands/fingers.  Then, I could not get the old cartridges out as it has to be done with the bad fingers. Finally, after an hour, I was able to complete the task, but could hardly use my fingers.

I went back to the main printer and found where the black streaks were coming from and cleaned them off.  Then, still - each copied paper came out wrinkled at the top of the page.  I almost took the printer apart looking for a reason but finally just threw all of the paper in the paper tray away and put in a new load of paper.  I finally got it working without streaks or wrinkles.  My fingers/hands still have not recovered. It is such a nuisance to have such bad hands and fingers"

Polly commiserates:

Isn't it frustrating to have to jump thru hoops to get things that should be so easy?"

I know what you mean about those cartridges and then to get them out of the plastic casing.  Good gravy!!    Wow, five cartridges...that’s frustrating to fight with that.  I would be sweating after 10 mins.  It is awful to have such bad hands. Are they still sore?  What an ordeal for you.....

I need to buy a wrist brace. I wonder if I could get it on  myself?  If I can't work with the fingers I have I wonder if the brace would make it worse...more bulky. 
I don’t need more stuff to impede my 52 pick up fingers. Even just getting things on the conveyor belt is an obstacle for me. I kind of fling the items up there."

And Julie provides people with a distraction:

I wear my wrist brace a lot and people don't look at my hands/fingers much - they are looking at my wrist brace and then I tell them that I have arthritis.  Then, they start showing me osteoarthritis in their fingers and saying how much their thumb hurts - turns the attention away from me.