The New Challenge

Gary Kaplan, Chairman and CEO Virginia Mason Medical Center, USA.

The challenges presented by this shift in focus can be overcome with strong leadership, clarity of purpose and a shared vision.

Healthcare processes are mostly disease-centred. How big a shift is it then for hospitals to create processes that are patient-centred?

Most care providers are drawn to healthcare, in large part, because they want to make a difference in people's lives, but that healthcare processes can make delivery of patient-centred care challenging. At Virginia Mason, we recognise that we would not exist without our patients. Everything we do is ultimately to improve their health and well-being. Otherwise we wouldn't be here. That's why our patients are at the top of our strategic plan. This clear and unequivocal focus on the patient helps remind us, in everything we do, to place the patient's requirements on top priority. This focus is somewhat of a shift and presents challenges that can be overcome with strong leadership, clarity of purpose and a shared vision of what patient-centred care can mean in terms of an optimal patient experience.

What systems need to be put in place in order to provide care that best suits the patient's needs (i.e. patient-centred care)?

Systems that provide opportunities for active participation of patients and family members in policy and programme development, to enhance clinical care and improve outcomes, need to be put in place. We have been fortunate at Virginia Mason to be able to involve patients and families in our improvement work; from evaluating patient education to assisting with major programme redesign like in our Cancer Institute. When the focus is on patient centredness all processes and systems can be modified to ensure that they truly add value for our patients.

How important a role does technology play in this scenario? Is there enough technology available to push for a patient-centred care model?

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in healthcare; however, the emphasis must be on using technology in a way that makes a difference for our patients and does not merely automate longstanding inefficient processes that are not designed to be patient-centred. We, therefore, work hard to re-design and re-engineer our processes using our Virginia Mason Production Systemmethods prior to automating with innovations such as CPOE.

What role does the leadership play in bringing about a patient-centred approach throughout the organisation?

Leadership's role is critical in articulating the vision, helping connect the dots between the vision and the work people do every day and helping remove barriers to patient-centred care. Virginia Mason's strategic plan, helps us to put the patient's requirements first.

Author Bio

Gary Kaplan