“There’s Always Something to Do Better” – Medical College of Georgia, home of patient and family centered care

The quote in the post comes from Roslyn Marshall, RN, Nurse Manager of the 3West Inpatient (Neurology and Neurosurgery) unit at Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta.

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Just as with several other organizations I have visited, I did not imagine that I would be heading to Augusta, Georgia to learn about how to involve patients and families in their care, but I’m glad I did. This is a place where so many things that are seen as abnormal in the rest of health care, are normal (see this paper for a description of patient centered care, with a focus on MCG). In an environment like this, it’s okay to ask “why?” when it comes to issues of involving patients and families in their care.

The occasion of my visit is related to a grant that Medical College of Georgia has received to study the use of a personal health record to improve hypertension care. With respect to the idea that being as close to the patient as possible is important, Ms. Pat Sodomka, Senior Vice President of Patient and Family Centered Care, hosted my visit on behalf of the organization.

Part of my study included watching the excellent program, The Remaking of American Medicine, which featured Medical College of Georgia in its last hour, and it was amazing to see how much has been accomplished both in involving patients and their families, and in transforming the organization.

Today, I’ll post about what I saw clinically. Tomorrow, I will post about what I saw systematically in this leading edge care system.

I began in Family Medicine and Internal Medicine, where practitioners and patients are both busy, and integrating one or two electronic health records in the care that they use. This is what I observed when shadowing family medicine specialist Bill Phillips, MD.

Besides data from their own organization, they need to integrate the needs of patients working to stay healthy in a system with an affordability crisis. In my own practice, I had not had to think about which big box retailer offers which drugs for $4 , or even free, as a loss leader. However, this is a big issue for patients. I reviewed the formulary for Wal-Mart’s $4 program – it’s extensive.

I was able to shadow the Director of the Osteopathic Medicine Program, Julie Dahl-Smith, DO, who is also board certified in Family Medicine, as she performed a manipulation visit and acupuncture visit for a family. This made me think about the value of patient involvement through a personal health record. The treatments that Dr. Dahl-Smith provides are distinct from the allopathic treatments that I have been trained to do. There’s an opportunity for patients to become more knowledgeable about the treatments that work best for them through patient access.

I spent time with Shilpa Brown, MD, who manages her own faculty practice as well as a residency practice and extensive student teaching. Patients in each have distinct needs. I also observed some key differences in workflow between private practice and academic practice. Faculty are ultimately accountable for 1, 2, 3 or more residents’ care, whether that care is provided in person or virtually. There is much that MCG will contribute in this area as an innovative academic medical center.

In between, I visited with the Neurosciences Interdisciplinary Rounding Team, which includes nurses, pharmacists, students, residents and attendings, led by Dr. David Hess. This is a unit, 3W (which I will talk more about tomorrow) that serves patients and families not just locally but regionally. What would it be like if a family member who is based far away from Augusta could connect with their family’s care team electronically? The team was open to this idea.

This organization is unique in my travels because it is a full academic medical center with many top notch training programs, which include a family medicine residency and an osteopathic residency. It is also special in the way it involves patients and families in the care, through its advisor program. The program reaches all the way into undergraduate medical education, and every new program seeks involvement. Patient advisors are free to visit MCG facilities and talk to patients and families about their care.

As I was being guided to the Internal Medicine clinic by Bernard Roberson, Director of Family Services Development, we passed by one of the “commons” (a different way of thinking about a waiting room that’s more patient centered) and a patient waiting to be seen said to us, “Tell me more about patient and family centered care.” It turned out it was one of MCG’s Patient Advisors, and I think we both saw it as a welcome sight. That’s how things are different here.

Tomorrow, a post about the system-ness of Patient and Family Centered Care at Medical College of Georgia.

Ted Eytan, MD