Lessons From America

Briefing Note 75

It’s widely recognised that healthcare needs to change in order to drive efficiency through the system.

This is not a problem that’s specific to the UK – it’s something that health systems across the globe are having to tackle.

Here’s 5 new approaches that I picked up whilst reading some recent articles from the USA.

  1. Be more like Columbo.

If patients are regularly getting re-admitted with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) why not spend some time interviewing them so you can better understand the factors that are causing these patients to return?

Many of the factors will be controllable by the patient if they’re given the right guidance and support.

  1. Get the Board involved.

Any widescale change needs support from top management. For change to be really effective though this means ‘boots on the ground’ – your Board members need to be out and about around the hopsital putting change in place.

It’s not enough to mention things at Board meetings. Their involvement needs to be tangible to staff and patients.

  1. Patients looking after other patients.

At the Boston Medical Centre expectant mothers share their pre-natal appointments with other expectant mothers in a programme named ‘Centring Pregnancy’. There is contact with doctors and midwives, but the highlight for these patients is the peer-to-peer interaction.

Boston Medical Centre president, Maureen Bisognano, identifies the example of two women counselling another woman about how to manage pain during childbirth.

  1. Make health fun.

Look around your hospital at all the leaflets you have explaining this or that condition. Are they fun? Do they get people’s attention and hold their interest? I bet they don’t.

There’s a Canadian doctor called Mike Evans who does these amazing whiteboard style cartoons on a whole variety of health topics. Check out his channel on YouTube – youtube.com/docmikeevans.

This is the way to get people interested in their own health and so keep them out of hospital. 

  1. Me and my shadow.

At the Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh they shadow their patients during a specific health event (an operation for instance) in order to identify opportunities for improvement in process. Typically a member of staff, a student or a volunteer will stay with the patient as they make their way around the hospital.

One incredible result of shadowing was the introduction of valet parking for surgery patients after it became apparent that problems with finding a parking space were delaying operating theatre start times.

If you’ve got any examples from your Trust that you’d like to share email us at [email protected] and we’ll feature them in a future Briefing Note.