When we began thinking about forming a new therapy company, my colleagues and I knew it had to be centered around the goals of the triple aim to succeed. Those goals were first articulated by Donald Berwick, M.D., the former head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The goals articulate the core of what we hope to achieve in health care today:
- Improving individuals’ experience of care, including quality and satisfaction
- Improving the health of our population
- Reducing the per capita cost of health care
Because the first goal is an exceptionally crucial one, it is what I will focus on today: improving the experience of care for individuals and by extension, families and caregivers. Creating satisfying experiences for individuals seeking care means focusing on the patient — not the provider. This needs to happen on a level that is system-wide, encompassing organizations, services and health care professionals.
Before individuals’ experience of care can be improved, health and medical systems must accomplish the following goals:
- Learn what individuals want and need to lead healthy, productive lives
- Help them make use of public resources for optimum health
- Give individuals the support they need to be well and successful
It is important to note that what people want and need to lead healthy, productive lives can only be determined by listening to them. Listening allows us to discover what is important TO and what is important FOR those who need care. We must also understand the following:
- The role of rituals and routines in people’s lives
- The impact of having control over medical decisions
- How to respectfully address issues of health and safety while supporting choice
- How to help people recover faster, get home sooner and avoid rehospitalization
Experience tells us that most people are happy to share their ideas on what they need to live healthy lives. Most say having control over medical decisions typically increases the level of satisfaction people experience when receiving care. While medical practitioners may once have thought of themselves as administering care to passive recipients, we now know healthcare is a two-way street. In fact, healthcare is a partnership between professionals and those who need care.
What else can be done to improve the experience from a patient’s point of view? A seamless integration of services is a crucial factor. Yet rehabilitation services, for example, are often relegated to their own silos. As rehabilitation plays a crucial role in speeding healing and preventing relapses, therapists need to be seen as partners with other healthcare providers.
Rehabilitation must also offer an integrated network of specialties. The foundation may be occupational, physical and speech therapy, but other services should be present too, so people do not have to travel outside the network to find what they need. Once therapy services connect more closely to the broader fabric of care, people’s experiences will improve through an interdisciplinary approach that fosters healthier futures.
Kristy Brown is the president and CEO of Centrex Rehab. A speech language pathologist, she was the executive director of therapy services at Augustana Therapy Services (ATS) between 1999 and 2012.