Walking in a patient’s shoes

For anyone who has been on the receiving end of hospital care, it can be a very uncertain and vulnerable time.  I’ve been a patient a couple of times in my life, and although my experiences have been largely positive, there is much to learn from being on the other side of care.

For example, I have experienced what it feels like to be in pain, to be nil per mouth and waiting for surgery and to rely on staff to help with basic activities of daily living, such as dressing, getting out of bed and showering.   While I don’t suggest you go through what I did, to understand what our patients are feeling, the experience has given me a taste of what it’s like to walk in a patient’s shoes, even for a short period.

Every year thousands of patients come through our doors, each with a story to tell about the care they received. As you know I have a passion for improving the patient experience and I believe the way to do this is to engage with the people at the heart of the services we provide i.e. our patients and their whaanau.

As Professor Alan Merry, Chair of the Health Quality and Safety Commission states “No-one is better placed to understand the experience of a service than the person receiving it.”

By asking people to share their experiences we can celebrate what we do well while learning from the things we can improve.

So, what are our patients saying? Overall, patients are rating our inpatient services positively with 78% of patients surveyed saying their care was very good or excellent (as per the latest inpatient experience survey). However, that suggests that nearly one in five patients who come through our doors did not. If we drill down further 14% of patients felt that staff had little knowledge of their history, condition or treatment options, 10% experienced delays in care and treatment and 8% of patients did not like getting conflicting information or inconsistent information. With communication, dignity, respect and confidence being rated as the most important thing that patients want and need, we can clearly make more efforts to address some of these concerns.

The good news is we are already doing a lot of work in this area, through our Patient and Whaanau Experience Programme, led by Lynne Maher and her team, our Inpatient Experience Survey (mentioned above) and CM Health’s Patient Experience week on 23-26 March.

During this week, a series of interactive events are planned for staff and the public to share and learn from the experience of patients. Check out the ‘Empathy Zone’ on the 23rd where you’ll be able to use a wheelchair or crutches, try on glasses, which reduce sight or use ear muffs which reduce hearing – all in a bid to help us better understand some of the challenges people in the community face. On the 24th children from Kidz First will display posters showing how they’d like their bed space to look while in hospital. And on Wednesday afternoon, a range of staff and medical students will meet with patients and whaanau in a café style listening session.

There is something for everyone, and you will come away with some ideas to make our patients experience with us the best it can be.   You can also do your bit by applying the ‘granny test’ to everything you do. If you haven’t already heard me talk about it, this test is a way of determining the quality of our care by asking whether we’d be happy for our own granny to receive it. If something doesn’t pass the granny test we need to ask ourselves why and make improvements?

I look forward to seeing you next week.


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Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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