12 posts from October, 2012

Creating Your “A Team” for Health

Posted October 3rd, 2012 by

Today’s guest post is written by PatientsLikeMe Vice President for Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety Sally Okun, RN, MMHS.

SallyOkun

Getting health care can often feel like you’re trying to put together a difficult jigsaw puzzle, only to find that some of the pieces are missing. Even under the best circumstances, navigating the health care system is challenging for patients like you and your caregivers.  Worse, when health care is provided in an uncoordinated and fragmented way, the quality of care and patient safety can be compromised.

These are all reasons the idea of “team-based care” is gaining momentum, and emerging as an important factor in helping patients better manage their conditions. For the past year, I’ve been honored to be part of a working group commissioned by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to write a discussion paper on this topic.

Our team, made up of health care professionals and leading academics from the University of Washington, American Medical Association, Rush University Medical Center, American Academy of Physician Assistants and American College of Clinical Pharmacy, pulled together all that we learned during our monthly meetings, interviews with teams from around the country and input from national experts on “team based care.”  The result is a co-authored paper, published this week, by the IOM.

Defining "Team"

Among the goals we have at PatientsLikeMe is to amplify your voice – the patient voice – in relevant and system-changing initiatives and bring what we’re learning back to you.  As I share with you now the five hallmarks of the most effective teams, I want you to know that much of what we discussed is how you, the patient, are at the center of these teams.  Your needs, preferences and concerns are central to the team’s work.

So, what do you need to assemble your very own “A Team” for healthcare?

Shared and well-defined goals: Patients like you and, where appropriate, family members or other support persons, must work to establish shared goals that reflect your priorities.  Be sure your goals are understood and supported by all your team members.

Clear roles:  Each member of your healthcare team has specific responsibilities. Clear roles help all members of the team share the load, so the team can accomplish even more together than one can accomplish on their own.

Mutual trust: To reach your shared goals, it’s really important for you and the members of your team to earn each other’s trust.  Without this trust among the team it can be difficult to work well together

Practiced communication: Good communication takes practice and even the best teams continuously work on ways to improve this.  With all of the tools we have to communicate today, be sure your team knows what you prefer  – in person, on the phone, via email or text, etc.

Measured processes and outcomes: As you and your team create your healthcare plan, be sure it includes ways to measure how well you’re doing on meeting your goals. This translates to better care, and potentially, better results.

PatientsLikeMe member sokun

Note: The IOM working group was honored that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) asked it to contribute a Viewpoint piece on team-based care, highlighting the role of the patient on teams. You can see the Viewpoint piece, published today, here.


World Heart Day: Taking Prevention to Heart

Posted October 1st, 2012 by

Did your heart beat a little faster this weekend?  This past Saturday was World Heart Day, sponsored by the World Heart Federation.

World Heart Day 2012

Founded in 2000, this global event was created to educate the public about heart disease and stroke, the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 17.3 million lives each year.  What’s a major concern is that these numbers are rising.  By 2030, it’s expected that 23 million people will die from cardiovascular disease each year – which is more than the entire population of Australia. The main message of World Heart Day is that at least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors – tobacco, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity – are addressed.   That means that the way you live is inextricably tied to the health of your heart.

Children Are a Major Focus of World Heart Day

Children are a particular concern for the campaign as kids often have little control over their environment, lifestyle and food choices.  Unless families around the world prioritize a smoke-free home with healthy meals and regular exercise, the children of today are going to be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.  How can you help today’s kids have a strong hearts and a healthy future?  Check out the Kids on the Move Toolkit and Superheart Cartoon Leaflet for Kids to learn how you can put together a customized program for your family, school or community.

Like many health conditions, heart disease may not cross your mind until a human face is put on the disease, especially a face that looks like you or your loved ones.  That’s why the World Heart Federation is collecting personal stories via short conversations in person or by phone.  If you’ve been affected by heart disease or stroke, learn how you can participate in this global project.  Your story can help both world leaders and fellow community members focus on heart health with greater urgency.  We also encourage you to exchange support and tips with PatientsLikeMe members who have experienced a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, valvular heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions.

Speaking of individual stories, check out our interview with Alan, a PatientsLikeMe member who’s living with congestive heart failure (CHF).