Go read somebody else's blog (it could save your life)

That somebody else is Julia Meade, a resident who attended the 2014 Telluride Patient Safety Resident Physician Summer Camp.

Dr. Meade's new blog, The Hospital Docent, is off to a good start. Her first post is about informed consent, comparing it to a historic painting of a pipe:

Most people, when they think of informed consent, think of a piece of paper they are asked to sign shortly before some procedure or event occurs. It's usually a highly scientific paper with tiny print that most people don't even read before signing. Just like the image of the pipe, it looks like something useful and meaningful, but in reality it's not, it's just a piece of paper. 

Dr. Meade then offers five tips for putting the informed into informed consent. Read them here.

I for one am looking forward to a lot of forward-thinking patient-focused writing from Dr. Meade.

Source: Paul Levy.



Speaking of patient engagement …

I'll be delivering a general session on patient engagement (and the role of marketing and communication) tomorrow morning at the New England Society for Healthcare Communication's Spring 2014 Conference in Mystic, Conn.

Here are several teasers:

Don't forget the patient in patient engagement

Every patient is different. 

And, so it seems, is every definition of patient engagement.

No real revelation there. But it does expose a foundational imperative — where does patient engagement start?

The easy answer, of course, is with the patient. But reality shows us that it often starts with caregivers and health care administrators who channel the needs and desires of "patients" when they design "patient-centered" programs, services and facilities. After all, we are all patients, too!

There is a great deal of innovative thinking being done in the name of patient engagement. We saw a ton of it in the just completed judging for the inaugural John Q. Sherman Award for Excellence in Patient Engagement [the award winners will be announced May 15 at NPSF Patient Safety Congress in Orlando].

This creative thinking is breaking down traditional health care walls by taking care out in to the community, involving new people in caregiver support roles, inventing new ways to push information to patients and creating new social structures that empower dialogue.

The judges were impressed. 

But with every shining example of excellence in patient engagement, one fundamental question lingered — when, exactly, did they involve the patient in this discussion?

Patient engagement is about our patients, but it also needs to be by our patients (and their families!). The strategies that will indeed be sticky — the ones that will be sustainable and cause real change in both personal and population health — will be the ones that start and end with patients. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, they must be "of the patients, by the patients and for the patients."

So as you strategize how to improve patient engagement, make sure that discussion begins with the most critical people — your patients. And don't forget families, too!

This post originally appeared on EngagingPatients.org, a blog dedicated to advancing patient and family-centered care. I am a member of the Engaging Patients Advisory Board and write for the blog. 


Still time to join health care communications pros for #NESHCo2014

There's still time to join New England's top health care communications pros for three days of education, networking and general awesomeness.

"High Stakes Communications: Best Bets for Healthcare Engagement" is the theme for the New England Society for Healthcare Communications 2014 Spring Conference, to be held May 14 through 16 in Mystic, Conn.

NESHCo always puts on a first-rate conference. The speaker lineup is fabulous and the topics are hitting on today's hot issues.

I'll be speaking on patient engagement and why marketing and communication strategies are integral to success (general session on Thursday, May 15, at 10 a.m.).

Register today!

Time for a new health care dress code?

Does what your doctor wear endanger your health?


There's a debate brewing over whether attire is leading to cross contamination from patient to patient and raising the infection levels in hospitals and physician offices. The idea of ditching flagrant garb — like neckties and the iconic white coats — was floated in an article titled "Healthcare Personnel Attire in Non-Operating-Room Settings" in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology (no, I didn't read the article, but I did read about it in the New York Times!).

So what to do about the biggest culprits — the neckties and white coats?

We can dispense with neckties (they should go anyway — and many clinicians have favored bow ties instead to lessen the risk of cross contamination!). But the white coats play a helpful role in identifying who does what in the health care setting.

In fact, who is in the room with you, the patient, is a big issue. These days, more and more health care workers are wearing scrubs, the pajama-like uniforms that were once reserved just for the Operating Room. In some places, even cleaning staff wear scrubs.

Uniforms are important, but proper identification and introduction of staff is the real critical element. When every staff member walks into a patient's room, they should introduce themselves and clearly state why they are there and what they will be doing — in terms the patient can understand!

If we expect patients to be partners in their care, they need to know who they are partnering with — and why!