As a healthcare improvement advisor, a big part of my job is coaching teams to improve quality of care. Often the main goal is helping teams be patient-centered and incorporate the patients’ voice—to make patients true partners in their healthcare.
I am now heading into the final stretch of my first pregnancy. Going through this process opened eyes to the juxtaposition of my job as an advisor and my personal journey as a patient seeking ongoing medical care. As a millennial, I’ve tended to fit the typical mold of a young, healthy person that only seeks medical care like annual flu shots, basic prescriptions, and preventive services. I’m passionate about healthcare improvement because I’ve been an advocate for loved ones with complex medical needs, but it hasn’t come from my own personal healthcare experiences.
At first, I found it exciting to go to my prenatal visits and note the provider-MA dyad relationship, standing orders, and other elements of team-based care that were embedded in my experience. I noticed that my provider was using agenda-setting in our visit, and that she was open to discussing my ideas and questions about my health and how I can best manage it. I also made it a point to use the patient portal to email my doctor, though I admittedly had grown to expect such easy access given where I have been receiving care. My newfound experience as an engaged patient felt like a fun exploration—a “Where’s Waldo?” of quality improvement best practices.
It wasn’t until I progressed further in my pregnancy that I began to truly appreciate the way these practices impacted my experience—and, in turn, my health. For the first time in my life, I found myself strongly preferring visits with my care team instead of whoever is available at the time most convenient to me. Something about seeing familiar faces that know my journey is reassuring, especially when I have questions or am feeling unsure about what the future holds. Who would’ve thought? I was no longer experiencing healthcare delivery as a menu of services and tasks to check off for the year. Instead I’d begun building a relationship with my care team and valuing the human-centered aspects of my care.
We all know engagement leads to increased patient and provider satisfaction, better health outcomes, and lower healthcare costs. Before my pregnancy, I was a firm believer in the power of patient-centered care, despite being a low utilizer myself. But my experience over this past year has given me a new appreciation of what a difference a strong patient-care team relationship can make. Patient and family engagement is a key focus area for our practice transformation efforts, and this experience gives me a stronger perspective of why it matters.
If you are work on healthcare improvement and don’t yourself have a close partnership with your care team, I recommend cultivating that relationship. Doing so can open up insights and make the work more satisfying. The more we understand and appreciate the healthcare in our own lives, the better able we’ll be to make it better for everyone.
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