Explore the Blog Explore Blog

Now Viewing: Patient-Centered Care

Improving Mental Health Care for Veterans is Vital

Nov 12, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Ilse Wiechers

Ilse Wiechers, MD, MPP, MHS is associate director at the Northeast Program Evaluation Center in the Office of Mental Health Operations of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and faculty with the Yale Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship. She is an alumna of the Yale Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)/VA Clinical Scholars Program (2012-2014).

Ilse Wiechers

Health and disease are on a continuum.  We are at a point in time where we are trying to understand the constituents of health, whereas historically our focus has been on understanding disease. It is important to recognize that veterans have unique determinants of health not shared with the rest of the population, such as exposure to combat and prolonged time spent away from social support networks during deployment.

These exposures can put veterans at increased risk for mental health problems, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance use problems. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a health care system uniquely positioned to help improve the overall health of veterans because of its expertise in addressing these unique mental health needs.

I have the privilege to serve our nation’s veterans through my work as a geriatric psychiatrist conducting program evaluation for the Office of Mental Health Operations (OMHO) at the VA. My work provides me an opportunity to directly participate in several of the key components of the comprehensive mental health services the VA provides for veterans.

View full post

Let’s Put Veterans in Charge of Their Pain Care

Nov 11, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Erin Krebs

Erin Krebs, MD, MPH, is the women’s health medical director at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Physician Faculty Scholars program and the RWJF Clinical Scholars program.

Erin Krebs (Veterans Day)

How can we create a Culture of Health that effectively serves veterans? We can put veterans in charge of their pain care.

Chronic pain is an enormous public health problem and a leading cause of disability in the United States. Although 2000-2010 was the “decade of pain control and research” in the United States, plenty of evidence suggests that our usual approaches to managing chronic pain aren’t working. Veterans and other people with chronic pain see many health care providers, yet often describe feeling unheard, poorly understood, and disempowered by their interactions with the health care system.

Evidence supports the effectiveness of a variety of “low tech-high touch” non-pharmacological approaches to pain management, but these approaches are not well aligned with the structure of the U.S. health care system and are often too difficult for people with pain to access. Studies demonstrate that patients with chronic pain are subjected to too many unnecessary diagnostic tests, too many ineffective procedures, and too many high-risk medications.

View full post

Big (Box) Medicine?

Nov 6, 2014, 4:55 PM, Posted by Michael Painter

Lucy in the chocolate factory

Let’s see a show of hands. Who among us, doctor, nurse, patient, family member, wants to give or get health care inspired by a factory—Cheesecake or any other?

Anyone?

I didn’t think so.

True confession: I have never actually eaten at a Cheesecake Factory (hereinafter referred to as the Factory). My wife, Mary, and I did enter one once. We were returning from a summer driving vacation. Dinnertime arrived, and we found ourselves at a mall walking into a busy Factory.

It seemed popular. The wait was long—really long. We got our light-up-wait-for-your-table device. We perused the menu. There was a lot there. Portions seemed gigantic. We looked at each other and, almost without speaking, walked back to the hostess, returned our waiting device and left.

You got me—I cannot say 100 percent that I wouldn’t love Factory food. We were so close that one time!

View full post

Quotable Quotes About Nursing, November 2014

Nov 6, 2014, 1:00 PM

This is part of the November 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

“As a nurse, I understand the risk that I take every day to go to work, and he’s no different than any other patient that I’ve provided care for. So I wasn’t going to say, ‘No, I’m not going to provide care for him. I didn’t allow fear to paralyze me. I got myself together. I’d done what I needed to get myself prepared mentally, emotionally, physically, and went in there.”
--Sidia Rose, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Treating Ebola: Inside the First U.S. Diagnosis, 60 Minutes, CBS News, Oct. 26, 2014

“...I grabbed a tissue and I wiped his eyes and I said, ‘You’re going to be okay. You just get the rest that you need. Let us do the rest for you.’ And it wasn’t 15 minutes later I couldn’t find a pulse. And I lost him. And it was the worst day of my life. This man that we cared for, that fought just as hard with us, lost his fight. And his family couldn’t be there. And we were the last three people to see him alive. And I was the last to leave the room. And I held him in my arms. He was alone.”
--John Mulligan, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Treating Ebola: Inside the First U.S. Diagnosis, 60 Minutes, CBS News, Oct. 26, 2014

“Someone asked a nurse, what do you make? I make sure your seriously ill father is cared for. I make sure that when you’re incontinent you’re cared for. It’s this everyday, profound yet intimate work that people do. People don’t understand it. It requires incredible cognitive and emotional intellect to do it. You are with someone at the most difficult and challenging and joyous moments of their lives.”
--Diana Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor, Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing and president, American Academy of Nursing, Nurses Want to Know How Safe is Safe Enough With Ebola, NPR.org, Oct. 14, 2014

View full post

With New Apps, Product Recall Information is Just a Consumer’s Touch Away

Oct 31, 2014, 11:40 AM

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) awarded prizes this week for four new online applications to help consumers track product recalls. Earlier this year, the CPSC challenged developers to create apps to help consumers track recall announcements and safety incidents involving consumer products. Nine developers submitted proposals, using the CPSC’s SaferProducts.gov website.

The CPSC’s research finds that recalls impact both consumers who purchase new products and consumers who purchase products—such as cribs and high chairs, whose safety standards change over the years—at yard sales and thrift stores. The products’ bar codes can be used by some of the apps to determine whether there has been a recall. Others check user emails for information on products purchased online.

The four new apps:

  • Safety Checker usually needs just three fields filled in or the bar code scanned to find recall data. The app works with iOS and Android devices.
  • Recall Pro uses Google Chrome to help consumers find recall information before making an online purchase.
  • The “Slice” app checks purchases via email inboxes against the CPSC’s recall list and is available for iOS and Android users.
  • Total Recall 101 checks a user’s email inbox and archives for references to purchased products, including product receipts and conversations with friends (but emails remain private to the user). The app matches products against the CPSC’s recall list and alerts users to any problems.

>>Bonus Link: Injuries cause tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year. Find more information on product safety advice from the CPSC.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Primary Care and the Next Phase of Health Care Reform

Oct 29, 2014, 11:00 AM, Posted by Martin Serota, Michael Hochman

Michael Hochman, MD, MPH, is medical director for innovation at AltaMed Health Services, the largest independent federally qualified health center in the United States. AltaMed has enrolled more than 30,000 Southern Californians in Medi-Cal and Covered California, the state health care exchange. Hochman is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Martin Serota, MD, is AltaMed’s chief medical officer.

Michael Hochman Michael Hochman

Although the dust is still settling, most indicators suggest that the first wave of national health care reform was a success, particularly in California.  More than 8 million Americans enrolled in commercial health plans under the Affordable Care Act, surpassing targets set by the Obama administration. Many more will qualify for plans under Medicaid expansion. As leaders at a community health center that serves a large population of low-income patients—many of whom currently lack coverage—we could not be happier about the new opportunities for our patients.

Martin Serota Martin Serota

But we also know that the work is far from complete. Health care reform will only be a success if coverage expansion results in improvements in quality and efficiency, and better health for the population. As we know from the Massachusetts experience, it took time and a lot of effort for these benefits to ensue. Only now, several years after health care reform began in Massachusetts, are residents of the state starting to reap the benefits.

View full post

Patients Pleased With Care from Physician Assistants

Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM

Physician assistants (PAs) received high marks from patients in a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll for the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Among 680 Americans (out of more than 1,500 surveyed) who have interacted with a PA in the past year, 93 percent see PAs as part of the solution to the nation’s shortage of health care providers; 93 percent regard PAs as trusted health care providers; and 91 percent agree that PAs improve health outcomes for patients.

“The survey results prove what we have known to be true for years: PAs are an essential element in the health care equation and America needs PAs now more than ever,” AAPA President John McGinnity, MS, PA-C, DFAAPA, said in a news release. “When PAs are on the health care team, patients know they can count on receiving high-quality care, which is particularly important as the system moves toward a fee-for-value structure.”

The AAPA points out that more than 100,000 PAs practice medicine in the United States and on U.S. military bases worldwide. A typical PA will treat 3,500 patients in a year, the association says, conducting physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting tests, prescribing medication, and assisting in surgery.

Read more about the AAPA survey.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

RWJF Pioneering Ideas Podcast: Episode 6 | What if? Shifting Perspectives to Change the World

Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Please note that this podcast player might not work in some versions of Internet Explorer. Please view this page in another browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari. You may also access the episode via SoundCloud.

RWJF's Pioneering Ideas Podcast is on iTunes! Don’t miss an episode—click to subscribe.

Welcome to the sixth episode of RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas podcast, where we explore cutting edge ideas and emerging trends that can help build a Culture of Health. Your host is Lori Melichar, director at the foundation.

Ideas Explored in This Episode

Sharing Health Care Providers’ Notes (3:08) OpenNotesTom Delbanco and Jan Walker talk with RWJF’s Emmy Ganos about why they decided getting health care providers to share their notes with patients was an essential innovation–and where their work is headed next. Here’s a hint: what if the  3 million patients who now have easy access to their clinician’s notes could co-write notes with their providers?

Rethinking How We Solve Poverty (18:46) Kirsten Lodal, founder and CEO of LIFT, talks with RWJF’s Susan Mende and shares some simple ideas with the potential to revolutionize our approach to helping people achieve economic stability and well being. In a thought-provoking conversation, Lodal connects the dots between improving the well being of those living in poverty and building a Culture of Health.

A Historian’s Take on Building a Culture of Health (27:58) – Princeton historian Keith Wailoo and RWJF’s Steve Downs discuss how deeply held cultural narratives influence our perceptions of health, and how today’s “wild ideas” are often tomorrow’s cutting edge innovations.

Sound bites

...On opening up health care providers’ notes and what’s next:

“What I would like to do is spread the responsibility for health beyond the health care system. The health care system is good; I hope that it gets better, but there are so many other parts of our lives that contribute to our well being.” – Jan Walker, OpenNotes 

“It will be a very different world in the future. And we do think that OpenNotes is kind of giving people a peek into it. It's a first glimmer that this kind of transparency, this kind of approach to things, while it's passive now, it just opens up an enormous amount of possibilities for the future. And that's what really excites us.” – Tom Delbanco, OpenNotes

...On rethinking how we solve poverty:

“People's lives are like rivers... they flowed before coming into contact with us, and they will flow after having contact with us. And so the opportunity that we have, the privilege that we have is of most positively affecting the trajectory and the velocity of that flow. But if we forget that–if we get too swept up in having to own everything that happens in a person's life–then we won't build the best solutions, because we won't build solutions that provide people with the support they need to navigate the flow of that river over the long term.” – Kirsten Lodal, LIFT

...A historian’s take on building a Culture of Health: 

“Our concern with aggregate trends is an important one in tracing the shifting demographics of health in our country, but to understand what health actually means involves actually putting the data aside and thinking about lives and thinking about individuals and thinking about what these trends mean on an individual level.”– Keith Wailoo, Princeton University

Your Turn

Now that you’ve listened – talk about it! Did anything you heard today get you thinking in new ways about how you can help build a Culture of Health? Do you have a cutting-edge idea you’d like to discuss? Comment below or tweet at me at @lorimelichar, or consider submitting a proposal. Be sure to keep the conversation and explorations going at #RWJFpodcast.

Join the Conversation

View full post

Exploring Citizen Science

Jul 31, 2014, 11:34 AM, Posted by Christine Nieves

Christine Nieves / RWJF Christine Nieves, program associate

I remember the distinct feeling of learning about Foldit. It was a mixture of awe and hope for the potential breakthrough contributions a citizen can make towards science (without needing a PhD!). Foldit is an online puzzle video game about protein folding. In 2011, Foldit users decoded an AIDS protein that had been a mystery to researchers for 15 years. The gamers accomplished it in 3 weeks. When I learned this, it suddenly hit me; if we, society, systematically harness the curiosity of citizens, we could do so much!

This is the spirit behind our recent exploration to learn more about how citizen scientists are addressing some of the most pressing problems in health and health care.

View full post

Choosing Wisely: Intensifying the Spotlight On Health Care of Dubious Value

Apr 30, 2014, 8:52 AM, Posted by Susan Dentzer

109347116

“If you study the kinds of decisions that people make, and the outcomes of those decisions, you’ll find that humanity doesn’t have a particularly impressive track record,” write the brothers Chip and Dan Heath in their masterful book Decisive. Invoking research from psychology and behavioral economics, the Heath brothers demonstrate how people often make decisions by looking at what’s in the “spotlight”—the information immediately before them, sparse as it may be.

But what’s in that spotlight “will rarely be everything we need to make a good decision,” the Heaths counsel. To choose wisely, we need to broaden our focus, or “shift the light.”

That’s especially true in health care, where the consequences of any decision, poorly made or not, may be life or death.

Enter Choosing Wisely, a program that shifts the spotlight onto many of the tests and treatments that both providers and patients should question, if not abandon completely.

(Editor's note: On May 2, 2014, RWJF held a First Friday GoogleHangout to explore how Choosing Wiselysprang from critical examination of the overuse of medical care in the United States—and how it’s changing how care is delivered in communities. Watch an archived version of the Hangout, above.)

This two-year old campaign, launched in 2012 by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, has identified more than 250 tests and procedures that warrant scrutiny because they are ineffective, unnecessary, unsupported by evidence, or possibly harmful. Even so, physicians and other clinicians perform them regularly, and patients sometimes request them.

Fifty-four of the nation’s premier medical specialty societies have joined the Choosing Wisely effort, and most of these have contributed to their own lists of questionable care. This week, three non-physician groups will also sign on to the campaign. Among the categories of dubious care identified on various societies’ “top five” lists are these:

  • Excessive imaging: CT or MRI scans for low back pain shouldn’t be ordered within the first six weeks of treating a patient, unless there are severe neurological symptoms, while patients with minor head injuries shouldn’t routinely get a head CT unless they have a skull fracture or are bleeding. Excessive scans expose patients to radiation that increases their lifetime risk of cancer.
  • Unnecessary medications: Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and should not be prescribed for viral illnesses such as sinus infections or bronchitis, particularly in children. But doctors say they frequently feel pressured to write these prescriptions by anxious parents.
  • Superfluous screening or diagnostic tests: Patients with no symptoms of heart disease and are at low risk of developing it are still frequently subjected to electrocardiograms when they get routine physical exams, despite evidence that this routine screening doesn’t improve patient outcomes. By the same token, hospitalized patients may have their blood drawn countless times for costly diagnostic testing that often yield little useful information, and can contribute to anemia.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting Choosing Wisely with a $2.5 million grant to extend the influence of these lists beyond medical specialty societies and into communities. State medical societies in Texas, Oregon, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington, and Massachusetts have undertaken steps to promote the lists, including developing continuing medical education courses for doctors. So have ten regional health collaboratives, such as Maine Quality Counts and the Washington Health Alliance outside Seattle (both are among RWJF’s Aligning Forces For Quality communities as well).

Consumer Reports and AARP are among organizations that have taken the lead in publicizing the lists for consumers. All told, these efforts have reached an estimated 170,000 or more physicians and 16 million-plus consumers. There’s even a Wikipedia page for the campaign, with the lists of tests and procedures curated by a “Wikipedian” in residence.

Caveats: Although more than 200 articles have been written about aspects of the campaign in medical journals, there is as yet little hard evidence that is has reduced superfluous care. A recent perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that the specialty societies’ lists “vary widely in terms of their potential impact on care and spending”—and suggests that some societies omitted lucrative elective procedures, such as knee replacement surgery, that also aren’t appropriate for many patients.

The bottom line: As a nation, we need to shine a spotlight on an even broader range of questionable health care in the future. But for now, the Choosing Wisely campaign is illuminating plenty of “care” that we can clearly pass up with impunity as we pursue our real objective:  better health.