Everywhere I go, healthcare leaders are using the term patient and family centered. The problem is, I just don’t see consistent delivery. There are still so many systems and processes designed solely for the staff.
Just last week I was scheduled to pick up my sister from an inpatient hospitalization. Her caregivers had been very good about keeping me in the loop about the care plan throughout her stay. We both felt that the approach was very much patient and family centered. But then came the discharge. She was advised to get someone to pick her up between noon and 1:00 PM. I agreed to arrive during that time and told her I would call when I was 10 minutes out so she could have the staff bring her out to me. The nurse hearing this exchange told my sister that wouldn’t be acceptable. I had to come to the unit so that they could see me to ensure that someone was actually taking responsibility for the hand off.
As a nurse, I can understand the caregivers’ desire to make sure the patient is being released to a responsible adult. Yet from my perspective as a family member trying to make the experience efficient for both me and my sister, I didn’t see the sense in having to make a physical appearance on the unit. That 30 second hand off would require me driving around the ramp to find parking (10 minutes) the trek from the car through the parking structure and through the hospital (10 minutes) calling for transport and awaiting their arrival (10 minutes) then rushing back to retrieve my car, exit the paid lot and drive around to meet the transporter for the pick up (10 minutes). My instant drive up was being ruled out for a 40 minute unnecessary hassle.
Of course I had the option of valet parking, but that would still require going to the unit. The last time I had used the valet service for a discharge, the attendant complained that he had just parked the car and now was having to run back for it.
Fortunately my sister is assertive enough to ask the staff to re-consider what she felt was a very logical request. They conceded and I was able to drive up for the hand off.
It’s little things like this example that remind me there is a long way to go for healthcare processes to reflect a strong partnership with patients and families. The first step is to filter all processes and systems through the lens of the patient and family. The filter should help answer the following questions: Does it make sense? Who will benefit? How does the process serve the patient and family? When we are able to answer the questions and demonstrate that the patient is at the center, we will have arrived.