Hospitals: Offer "Navigating the Health System" Courses

Someone at the Consumer Federation of America has decided this week should commemorate "America Saves Week" (or, more realistically, "America Doesn't Save But Should Week").

To celebrate, Wachovia is going into the workplaces of corporate partners and talking to employees about savings.

Hmmm...a financial services provider educating employees (and potential customers) on effective savings behaviors, plans, and goals. I like it.

Of course, this approach has an added development benefit (from the Charlotte BusinessJournal):

""This is going to help Wachovia build its business," Steve Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, said Thursday at a savings seminar for Wachovia employees in the Two Wachovia tower in uptown Charlotte."

Hospitals and healthcare organizations should consider adopting this best practice approach to consumer education.

Many facilities already offer 'community' health courses and events, including parenting classes, free BP screenings, etcetera - but we aren't reaching out to engage our consumers (patients and other stakeholders) and sharing our deep knowledge about how to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.

Cooperate with other community stakeholders who have an interest and an engagement with improving the safety and efficacy of the healthcare process.

For instance, an example of a "Navigating the Health System" course may include partnering with a university and having some healthcare administration students, pre-med students, and faculty present 'minicourses' on asking your doc questions, how to take notes during a preop appointment, how to write an advanced directive and where to file it at the hospital, what to bring for an inpatient stay, etc. If nothing else, you'd have some parents and fellow students in the audience.

You might also invite local representatives from clinics and Health Departments to give specialized talks on offerings of interest, like "Flu Shots: FAQs, Risks, & Benefits."

A final caveat - if you're already offering courses like this and attendance is poor, you're probably doing three things wrong.

1. You're offering topics that your community isn't interested in discussing - you're not touching a 'hot button' issue.

2. You're not publicizing enough or in the right mediums.

3. Your organization might not have the solid reputation for quality and safety in the community administrators believe you enjoy.

You can address the first two mistakes relatively easily.

Organizing a "Navigating the System" course doesn't have to be hard, or expensive.

You'd be amazed what insights you can glean by having a patient advocate/greeter ask visitors what type of talks/seminars they'd like to attend.

Have employees who are willing to help ask family and friends. Sit in your own cafeteria and listen to what people are talking about. How do healthcare developments and issues intersect with other 'real life, real people' challenges?

The good news about patient education - it's never too late to begin engaging your community and teaching consumers how to navigate the increasingly choppy waters of our US system.

This week I'll be blogging from Health 2.0 about companies engaged in doing just that - slainte!

1 comment:

heyjudeseattle said...

Here's one model of successful hospital education outreach that I thought was a great success...

My wife and I had our baby at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, WA. They offered birthing classes throughout the experience, supplemented with one-on-one coaching. They focused especially on breastfeeding. Perhaps as a result, I think they have one of the highest rates of successful breastfeeding mothers in our area.