Why Patients Should Join Hospital Committees – Medicine, Administration and Musings

If we really want better healthcare…

I can have a great income from a competitive job, live on an beautiful street, be married, have 2.5 happy, health children and still be utterly miserable.

In short: metrics aren’t everything.

In the same way, hospital metrics only describe part of the picture.

They give some objective measure of “success”, but can’t capture the experience.

That experience cannot be squeezed into a spreadsheet but it is what makes healthcare truly exceptional. A hospital cannot know what their experience is like without enlisting the people who have had it.

Doctors haven’t had it.

Neither have nurses.

Administrators surely haven’t.

Yet, historically, this is who has made up the committees that drive hospital policy.

Top-down, closed-door, behind-the-scenes leadership from people speculating what it’s like to be sick enough to need a hospital. The goal is be insightful enough to create a perfect experience for a person who isn’t in the room.

It’s like a surprise party for someone who’s sick, injured or dying.

They don’t want a cake, they want a softer bed and a television.

But their needs for softer beds will not be known until either one person asks or the other person spontaneously communicates that need.

Patient involvement in hospital committees are the venue by which this conversation can occur.

Until more patients are involved, hospitals will just keep buying cakes.

Complaints and grievances lodged by patients have an accountable pathway through committees. The committees are attended by senior administration, minutes are taken and feedback is given to providers involved.

Active participation is the best path to meaningful change. Social media outlets don’t have the same weight as a patient, in person, describing their experience to the providers who created it.

Real-life patient encounters expose the vulnerability of organizations and their members. The fallibility of providers, the impact of their mistakes on patients and their families becomes real.

If you’re a provider, this could come to you as a measurement:

An emailed report saying that your “Time to pain medication for long bone fracture” was too long this month.


Sitting with a husband, watching him sob as he recounts the pleas he made to obtain pain medications for his wife’s hip fracture.

Which would yield better patient care in the future?

Patients can join become active in hospitals a few ways.

Baystate Medical Center has patients serving on their patient safety committee, for example. Patients serve on committees that focus on health, wellness, patient experience or hospital operations.

Patients can also serve as advisors where they inform hospital priorities on care delivery.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has an entire handbook describing the process of creating patient advisors. This guide:

“…is a resource to help hospitals develop effective partnerships with patients and family members with the ultimate goal of improving hospital quality and safety.”

Patient involvement in hospital governance is a process.

Education and communication are two way streets. Patients may not understand the guidelines or safety issues the providers are facing. Providers often have limited understanding of the barriers that prevent their care plans from being realized.

Providers and patients may also have misaligned goals or priorities, thus undermining the care recommended.

Committees provide a common, safe venue where these topics can be explored. They take place outside of the doctor-patient clinical arena, allowing both sides to identify common themes and work toward them.

They at least allow both sides to be heard.

Patients can determine whether a local hospital has these opportunities by contacting the hospital’s patient advocate patient experience department.

Hospitals and healthcare systems are realizing that they cannot improve their services without input from the end-user, the patient.

If the goals of patients aren’t being met, the hospital is failing in its mission, regardless of how great their numbers are.

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Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !

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