An eye on empathy

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Eye-Tech focuses on providing patient-centred care in a day hospital settingEmpathy is the key to patient-centred care in any healthcare setting. At Eye-Tech Day Surgeries we have made empathy a foundation value.

There are numerous definitions for patient-centred care. The ACSQHC suggest that a consumer-centred approach to care involves:

• treating consumers and/or carers with dignity and respect

• communicating and sharing information between consumers and/ or carers and healthcare providers

• encouraging and supporting participation in decision making

• fostering collaboration with consumers and/or carers and healthcare organisations in the planning, design, delivery and evaluation of health care.

Internationally, the term patient-based, person-centred, relationship-based, patient-centred or patient and family centred are interchangeable. At Eye-Tech, we encourage patients to be actively involved in their care. We provide a physical environment that promotes patient comfort, and employ staff who are dedicated to meeting the physical and emotional comforts of our patients.

How do we achieve this in a day hospital setting? This is a question often asked at our Consumer Focus Group (CFG) meetings. Key factors include: an organisational culture that encourages staff to be sensitive to patients’ needs during their stay; a facility designed to feel like home; and an emphasis on staff, patient and family education.

Eye-Tech believes these qualities create a patient experience that distinguishes it from other day hospitals. There is a growing body of research that links patient experience and perceptions of care. At Eye-Tech we have devoted considerable time and effort in applying strategies for quality improvement, systems of risk management and incident reporting, which is essential but does not measure up without patient-centred care.

Recruitment and retention of high quality staff are crucial to patient-centred care, and to keep the high quality staff we have it is important for us to operate as a learning organisation. As a result, we have created a relatively flat structure at the top; management and staff share information internally and externally, we provide educational opportunities, we try to stimulate new ideas, we work as a team – even though we are over two sites, and our communication is open.

Increasingly, patients are faced with out-of-pocket expenses for their care, so naturally they are seeking more value for their money. Hospitals who respond to their consumers with personalised, high quality care and service excellence are poised to thrive in this era. We can differentiate ourselves by building a brand around a patient-centred approach that addresses the increasingly high expectations of our patients and families.

Eye-Tech’s strategies

  • Rights and responsibilities Eye-Tech has implemented a rights-based patient constitution and charter. These documents are on our website, in the patient booklet and displayed in reception. We ask each patient individually if they understand the charter or if they have any questions they require answering. Generally speaking, most people say they understand and require no further clarification.
  • Patient feedback systems One of the methods we employ at Eye-Tech is the collection and reporting of patient feedback. We use a paper-based system and a telephone system. Another method of obtaining feedback is to capture the patient’s story by interviewing them on the spot. We use these stories to begin our meetings when possible. It is a very effective motivator for quality improvement.
  • Consumer Focus Groups For the past three years we have organised a Consumer Focus Group. We only have one meeting a year, generally in July after all the statistics and feedback for the organisations have been collated. There is a core group of five participants and we invite at least another four people who have been recent patients each year. In the first meeting, we learned consumers were not interested in the CEO or high level management driving this meeting. From then on the organisation of this meeting was delegated to one of our permanent part-time registered nurses. The CEO and the executive manager present a report on the day and answer questions during the meeting only.
    The key to this meeting is in the pre-reading, which is sent out in advance. We share everything with this group with the exception of financial data. The members sign confidentiality statements and the work books are handed back at the end of the meeting. We include things such as quality and safety statistics, collated feedback and any booklet, brochure or piece of paper we hand out to patients and family in these work books. This allows time for a thorough review of the documents to ensure that everyone in the group can understand them. Participants are encouraged to ring the nurse organising the meeting if they require clarification prior to the meeting. We have made many changes from the feedback over the years. There is generally a lot of work to cover on the day and this preparation is essential for the smooth running of the meeting. Most of the participants have marked up questions and have prepared comments for discussion on the day.
    The other key is to ensure you cover everything you need to meet the standards in this annual meeting so that it can be reported. The consumer’s perspective is captured in the meeting minutes and action plan. These are the tools we table at every other meeting from staff to our highest governance level.
  • User-centred design We found it important to get patients and carers involved in the design from the initial planning stage.

The consumer group stated that a quiet environment and cleanliness were very important to them. They also indicated the design should incorporate positive spaces, interesting ceilings, a natural colour palate and open planning.

By Anne Crouch

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