Hospital Providers Come to Patient Advocates’ Defense

chicksLast week I had the opportunity to speak to two groups of hospital quality personnel; those folks who work in hospitals who are charged with overseeing the safety of their patients. They are QIOS, that is, Quality Improvement Officers – and their jobs depend on making sure that their body of patients this year are safer than their body of patients were last year, that next year’s patients are safer than this year’s, and so forth.

My overall message was “let patient’s help”- the idea that no one cares as much about a patient’s good outcomes than the patient and the patient’s families and loved ones. Therefore, by intentionally including them in care tasks and decisions while they are hospitalized, their outcomes may be better: fewer falls, fewer pressure ulcers, fewer central line infections, etc.

We looked at why this could be important, and how to embrace this kind of help from patients and caregivers… plus I included several slides that suggested that they embrace the presence of private patient advocates. That such advocates are another professional set of eyes and ears that can be devoted to the patient. That devotion means the patient will have less chance of suffering “sentinel events” or “serious reportable events” (also called “never events” – meaning, hospital errors) – which in turn makes the hospital look good. It’s win win – so why could any hospital object?

I went on to tell about some of the stories you all have shared with me – an advocate who is being charged $500 a year to be able to work within the hospital, an advocate who was required to register as a vendor (tedious, nonsensical paperwork), advocates met with anger, advocates who are simply told to leave, and others…. And I again said, “Hey – when the patient has paid someone to be there, then it’s win win – standing between an advocate and her patient doesn’t make any sense!”

At the end of the program, during Q&A, one of the QIOs stood up, mike in hand, and told the group, “I’ll tell you why we don’t want outside advocates! They make us feel like we’re under a microscope. They take notes and ask questions. We might get sued because they see everything we do wrong. We don’t need someone documenting problems and second-guessing us, so we don’t want them there!”

I was braced. I was prepared. I was ready to answer… but I never had to. Another woman in the room stood up first, and declared, “None of that could be further from the truth.” Turns out she is a hospitalist and has worked many times with private advocates, mostly for elderly patients, and she couldn’t praise the presence of a private advocate enough. “Trisha is right. It’s win win to have that advocate there for the patient. Advocates want exactly what we want for our patients. You should be happy when the patient has her own advocate!”

Then another woman echoed the same thing… then another. They gave examples. They agreed wholeheartedly that it truly is a benefit to have private advocates involved.

And it wasn’t just a cheerleading session. In each case they admitted their reluctance, at first, to allow an outsider to the inside workings of their patient care. In each case they realized that they started on the defensive (as had the first woman who spoke), but that they were quickly won over by the collaboration and professionalism – the approach that was all about doing well by the patient.

So why do I share this with you today?

If you have run into problems getting permission to sit with or visit a hospital patient / client then why not share this post with them? These are real hospital stories, with real outcomes. Hospitals today cannot afford to NOT make sure their patient is safe and secure and well-treated. The new CMS rules mean that a hospital’s income is negatively impacted by safety violations. For that reason alone, they are only smart to look at alternative care models, and private advocates provide that one-on-one at no cost to the hospital. What’s not to like?

So yes – all that was very positive, and I hope, usable for you. But I will also share this with you – that as each of those pro-advocate speakers related his or her story, I was just so thrilled! I was thrilled that YOU, perhaps as one of the people who was represented by those stories, have made such a marvelous impression on those people who had every reason to fear you at first, but so totally embrace your presence now.

I’m feeling a little like a Momma Hen, proud of her chicks, so privileged to be a part of your journey, and so thrilled at these very positive outcomes for patients.

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