Category Archives: Patient-centered care
How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Improve Medical Literacy, Take a Holistic Approach.
To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Cheryl C. Onwu, BS, a public health graduate student at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Onwu is a Health Policy Scholar at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.
A doctor informed an African American male that he has diabetes mellitus, and medication was prescribed. However, the doctor did not mention the extent of the dangers involved in having diabetes, or “the sugars.” Additionally, the doctor did not explain the detrimental effects if the patient failed to follow the prescription regimens and other recommendations.
Some of the challenges faced by minorities include lack of medical literacy, which can affect their overall health. Clear communication between a health care provider and his or her patients is important, so patients are cognizant of their health status, the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, potential threats to well-being, and how to control health problems.
As the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) has emerged as a model for providing effective team-based care that can help offset the impending primary care provider shortage, so, too, is there a growing need for educational strategies that promote interprofessional collaboration. A short report published online by the Journal of Interprofessional Care describes the strategies in place at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System Center of Excellence in Primary Care Education (CoEPCE) and indicates promising results in just one year: doubled productivity in patient care delivered by faculty providers, and a marked increase in same-day clinic access for patients receiving care from an interprofessional team.
The Connecticut CoEPCE, like four other program sites funded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Academic Affiliations, builds on the VA’s system-wide PCMH model, known as Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT). It seeks to develop exportable models of interprofessional education and patient care, according to the report, “Moving From Silos to Teamwork: Integration of Interprofessional Trainees Into a Medical Home Model.” The CoEPCE sites share four core curricular domains—shared decision-making, sustained relationships, interprofessional collaboration, and performance improvement—and the Connecticut center groups together physician, nurse practitioner (NP), pharmacy, and health psychology trainees.
The trainees divide their time evenly between interactive educational sessions and caring for patients, guided by faculty who provide supervision, mentorship, and collaborative shared care. Additionally, the Connecticut center incorporates a one-year post-master’s adult NP interprofessional clinical fellowship, to further enhance clinical proficiency and teamwork experience for NPs.
Richard Kronick, PhD, was named director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in August 2013. Kronick is a health policy researcher with a background in academia as well as in federal and state government. He received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research in 1998.
Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your new position at AHRQ. This is an exciting time for health care. What do you see as AHRQ’s place in the U.S. health care universe?
Richard Kronick: Thank you! You’re right—this is an exciting time.
We have an almost $3 trillion health care system. We pour tremendous resources into the delivery of medical care—but comparatively little effort into trying to understand how health care can be delivered more safely, with higher quality, and be more accessible and affordable. AHRQ’s role is to produce evidence that can be used to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.
Gretchen Hammer, MPH, is executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved. She works with local and state health care leaders and policy-makers to improve Colorado’s health care system.
Healing is both an art and a science. On one hand, clinicians are intensely driven by the quantifiable, the measurable, and the evidence-based algorithms that lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment as well as allow us to develop new innovations in medicine. However, healing is also an art. Patients are not just a collection of systems that can be separated out and managed in isolation of the whole patient. Each patient and their family has a unique set of values, life experiences, and resources that influence their health and ability to heal. Recognizing the wholeness and uniqueness of each patient is where the art of healing begins.
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It takes presence of mind and time to be empathetic. For clinicians, finding the balance between the necessary detachment to allow for good clinical decision making and empathy can challenging. This balance can be particularly difficult for students and new clinicians.
“Prescribe the right drug to the right patient at the right time” is not a new medical practice, but when a biomarker—that is, a measure of disease pathophysiology—or a gene makes this decision, that is a radically new medical practice. The promise of personalized medicine is that biomarker and gene driven algorithms will do much of the work of medicine. By predicting patients’ future health and the outcomes of an intervention, they will guide what doctors recommend to their patients. Like the theory of evidence-based medicine, personalized medicine promises a more objective, efficient and precise medical practice.
To date, personalized medicine has largely flourished “below the neck,” that is, in the care of patients with common medical diseases, particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease. In the last two decades though, the National Institutes of Health, the pharmaceutical industry, and researchers have invested substantial time and money in research such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (called “ADNI”) dedicated to discovering and validating the biomarkers and genes that predict whether a brain will fail. This research is beginning to reshape how we talk about the diagnosis and treatment of the aging brain, an organ that is more and more, like hearts and bones, regarded as an organ “at risk.” As a result, clinicians, ethicists, and health care policy-makers are beginning to ask how we should practice personalized medicine for the seemingly healthy brain that is at risk for neurodegenerative dementias such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Benjamin Roman, MD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar in residence at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. This is part of a series of essays, reprinted from the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics’ eMagazine, in which scholars who attended the recent AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference reflect on the experience.
The term “patient-centered" has become something of a mantra in the nation’s current health reform efforts. There’s widespread agreement—at least in theory—that putting the patient at the center of everything is important but, as demonstrated in discussions at the recent AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference, there is no exact blueprint for how to accomplish that.
Patient-centeredness means many things to many different people, but at its core are issues of shared decision-making and balancing how much the patient should really be in the driver’s seat. Patients want more information, but too much is overwhelming. They want to be nudged to do the right thing for their health, but not nagged. They want to choose health care wisely, but they don’t necessarily want less. Doctors want to involve patients in decision-making but don’t know how, or what evidence to use for the discussion.
Following a study that found serious gaps in advance care planning for decisions about serious illness, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Physician Faculty Scholar Rebecca L. Sudore, MD, has launched an online resource to help patients prepare to make complex medical decisions. Sudore, who led the study, saw a need for an easy-to-use tool , beyond an advance directive form, that could help prepare patients to identify what is important to them in life, communicate their wishes with others, and make informed medical decisions.
PrepareForYourCare.org is a free, easy-to-use online resource that guides patients through all the steps of advance care planning, and incorporates content directly from Sudore’s study. It is written at a fifth-grade reading level, includes voice-overs of all text and large fonts for the visually impaired and closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
More importantly, PREPARE shows people, through videos and a step-by-step process, how to have the conversation and make informed medical decisions.
Robin Newhouse, PhD, RN, is a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative. She is professor and chair, Organizations Systems and Adult Health at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. She is also vice-chair of the Methodology Committee for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. This post is part of the "Health Care in 2013" series.
My resolution for the U.S. is to begin the transformation of health care systems to enhance high quality patient-centered care. Despite some improvements, the National Healthcare Quality Report 2011 reveals that health care quality in the U.S. often falls short of expectations—demonstrating geographic and population (minority and low-income) variations. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the National Quality Strategy (NQS), designed to improve the quality of health care in the U.S. My highest priority for action is the first aim: “Better Care: Improve the overall quality of care, by making health care more patient-centered, reliable, accessible, and safe.” Better care is achievable—with two specific strategies in mind: implementation of evidence-based practices and a focused goal to measure and improve patient-centered outcomes.
Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices. We have not gone far enough, fast enough. It is time to focus on implementation of evidence-based practices in health care systems. Research studies have continued to exponentially produce results intended to inform health care practices. Identifying and implementing evidence-based practices known to work—but that are underutilized—can go a long way to improve health care processes and quality. Performance measures are an example of one approach to drive system changes. The 2012 NQS Annual Progress Report describes the achievements of the first year’s work, including a focus on clinical and patient-reported outcomes (as close as possible to patient-centered) and development of new patient-centered outcomes.
A member of the Navajo Nation, Lisa Palucci, MSN, RN, is a nurse consultant at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico. This post is part of the "Health Care in 2013" series.
As the nation trudges forward in its quest to improve health care access for all Americans, I think it is essential that we continue to make progress in decreasing the health disparities and social determinant of health gaps that continue to be ignored in mainstream health policy initiatives. Throughout the course of my PhD program at the University of New Mexico (UNM), we have had numerous opportunities to experience nursing and health policy in action by attending national conferences, meetings, and orientation programs. To my disappointment, discussion about improving health disparities and social determinants of health are seldom a topic on the agenda. This poses the question: Aren’t the health disparities and social determinants of health what got us to the point of an inequitable health care system in the first place?
By Jennifer L. Wolff, PhD, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Physician Faculty Scholar Cynthia M. Boyd, MD, MPH
It is widely recognized that family members and trusted friends make an enormous difference by assisting disabled older adults with daily household and personal activities. There is less awareness, however, that families and trusted friends also often help older adults navigate our complex and fragmented health care system to get the best care possible—by scheduling and arranging transportation to appointments, engaging in medical decision-making, or overseeing adherence to health care treatments. As we learn more about how older adults navigate the health system, it is becoming clear that they often do so with the support and active engagement of a “family companion” —and that this role is enduring.
In a study we published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS), we found that nearly one-third of adults over age 65 were accompanied by what we called a “family companion” during routine physician visits. These companions were almost always family members (93.3 percent), and they typically accompanied their loved one to physician visits on a regular basis—70.3 percent were identified as “always” present.
We were surprised by the persistence and consistency of family companion involvement. Three quarters (74.5 percent) of older adults continued to be accompanied by a companion at one year follow-up, nearly always the same family companion (87.1 percent).