Deborah McGrew, UTMB vice president and chief operating officer.So what if patients ran the hospital?  Deborah McGrew, UTMB vice president and chief operating officer, recently hosted a luncheon showing how UTMB executives are exploring this very question. 

The answer has been a model for health care delivery called patient- and family-centered care.

According to the Institute of Medicine, this model of care is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions.  It also considers the family’s needs, as they are often the at-home caretakers for patients.

To maximize this philosophy, UTMB is engaging patients in key management decisions including day-to-day operations, construction design and food service through designated patient advisors.   

Patient advisor, Bonnie Farmer has been a patient in UTMB clinics and hospitals and a frequent visitor to the hospital for her aging parents.  “I felt honored to be invited to be a patient advisor.  The health system operations council has been very receptive to what I’ve said,” said Farmer. 

Farmer was also one of several patients who provided feedback on the Medicine Teaching Service Redesign, headed by Dr. Randall Urban, UTMB chairman of internal medicine. “Based on Bonnie’s input, we have developed a set of guiding principles that include effective communication with patients and families, improving the continuity of care and improving patient outcomes, to name a few,” said Urban. “Bonnie was instrumental in giving us the patient perspective.”

Patient advisors also participated in taste testing the hospital food and furniture selections.

“Patients are helping us choose our new hospital beds and furnishings, because they are the ones who will be using them — it should be their decision,” said McGrew.  “Patient-and family-centered care isn’t something new; however, we are viewing this approach as an essential strategy for success given the changes we are facing within the industry,” she added. 

In 2008, UTMB’s Oliver Center was formed to promote patient-focused care.  Since its inception the Oliver Center has provided numerous physician training programs to enhance patient care.  It currently offers empathy training to resident physicians and audio-recording of patient appointments to improve patients’ experiences. Doctors replay their audio-recorded patient appointments and receive direct feedback on improving their communication.

In late 2013, UTMB installed chairs in every patient room for its Commit to Sit program. Commit to Sit focuses on effective communication with patients, which includes being seated during patient and family interactions in the hospital room.  Sitting places the physician at the patients’ eye level, creating an atmosphere of comfort and ease.  

Patient- and family-centered care isn’t only being applied in the hospital, but also in UTMB clinics.  In December 2013, all three UTMB Family Medicine clinics received the highest level of certification for its new patient-centered efforts form the National Committee for Quality Assurance. 

While pundits weigh in on the politics of health care, UTMB is placing politics aside to focus on the patient and embrace positive change. The patient- and family-centered care model puts the patient in the driver’s seat.