By India Ogazi 

So, what if patients ran the hospital? Deborah McGrew, University of Texas Medical Branch Health System 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.

It 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 advisers.

Patient adviser 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 adviser,” Farmer said. “The health system operations council has been very receptive to what I’ve said.”

Farmer also was one of several patients who provided feedback on the Medicine Teaching Service Redesign, headed by Dr. Randall Urban, UTMB chairman of internal medicine.

Patient advisers also participated in taste testing the hospital food and selecting furniture.

“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,” McGrew said.

“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 said.

In 2008, UTMB’s Oliver Center was formed to promote patient-focused care. Since its inception, the center has provided numerous physician training programs to enhance patient care.

It 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.