When you were growing up, you may have visited a hospital and may have heard a health care worker in the hallway refer to a patient as, “There’s a hip replacement in room 200” or “We have lung cancer in room 105.” It could have been your relative in that room. How horrible!
Traditionally, in the past, many health care systems have operated as a “disease care system” which treated the disease, not the whole person; a patient was often referred to as the disease he or she carried.
Thankfully, this old way is changing—at least, in the VA. The Department of Veterans Affairs has taken vital steps to ensure each VA health care facility is transforming from a problem-based, disease care system to a Veteran-centered health care system.
What is patient-centered care all about? “It’s all about personalizing Veterans care so that everything we do supports the Veteran,” said Karen Arnold, MA, RD, Chair of Patient Centered Redesign Committee. “It involves our practice of, and your experience of health care in a respectful, caring, and collaborative environment. It means we put you, the patient, at the center of care. It means we help Veteran patients identify and communicate with a provider or team, about their desires and needs for health and well-being.”
After a Veteran communicates what they want for their health and well-being, the needs are translated into a personalized health plan (PHP) where the Veteran is at the center of the care we provide in support of their plan.
What is different about patient-centered care? “As a patient, you are at the center of all decisions regarding your care,” said Candice Crider, RN, MSN, Chief Nurse, Geriatric, Palliative and Extended Care/Co-Director. “We empower you through information and education. Your family is involved (if you wish for them to be). We provide comfort from pain and a healing environment, which includes good nutrition, emotional support, collaborative care, and human interaction.”
What specific things have we done at SFVAMC to foster patient-centered care? “We have initiated and implemented many projects and have received excellent response from our patients,” said Andreana Ososki, who provides Program Support for the Patient Centered Redesign Committee. Some of these initiatives include:
• Farmer’s Market at SFVAMC each Wednesday, offering healthy organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and plants for purchase.
• Free wellness classes
• Valet parking for patients (free).
• Bauer’s shuttle for employees, patients and volunteers (free).
• Free patient shuttles from our community based outpatient clinics to SFVAMC and back.
• Community Living Center vegetable garden/therapy.
• Chair massage, aromatherapy and other complementary therapies.
• Pets for Vets program.
• Veterans Art Show.
• CLC Café and various CLC events (e.g., Dances, Car Show, Holiday Celebration).
• Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT).
• Secure email messaging between patients and providers through MyHealtheVet.
• Volunteer greeters to greet patients as they walk into our Medical Center.
• Nutrition and Food Service offering healthier meal choices and homemade meals.
• Volunteers to escort patients to their appointments.
• Electronic message boards throughout the Medical Center to provide information about upcoming events and activities.
Here’s what SFVAMC expects from our employees when interacting with enrolled Veterans:
• We expect employees to consider a Veteran’s personal situation, values, and priorities;
• To provide welcoming, helpful and personalized care: to treat Veterans with respect and as a unique person rather than a diseased body part or an “interruption” in the employee’s day;
• To respect patient privacy, and follow all regulations to ensure protection of patient information;
• To consistently aim to exceed patient expectations and go that extra mile;
• To honor each patient’s right to information concerning their medical diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis;
• To know and understand their job responsibilities, take charge of them and do their job well;
• To communicate in a courteous, professional, clear and respectful manner at all times
• And to show empathy and sensitivity; to find out and acknowledge what matters to the patient.