Navigating the system through patients’ eyes

Paige Driver

Paige Driver

AMA Wire Spotlight on Innovation post by Paige Driver, a second-year medical student at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

At 6 a.m. on a Friday, most medical students are donning their white coats and heading to the hospital or a medical office practice to learn how to navigate the health care system through the eyes of physicians. However, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University had a different idea for their first group of student leaders in a new program—to try navigating the system through the eyes of patients.

Five students from the Brody School of Medicine’s inaugural cohort of Leaders in INovative Care (LINC) Scholars program (including me) spent a day this summer shadowing patients’ entire experiences in a variety of health care settings to observe them navigating the very complex system of Vidant Medical Center and the school’s outpatient clinics.

I shadowed a patient in pediatric outpatient surgery, from parking the car to driving away, and I believe the exercise was integral to learning about patient-centered care and patient safety.

Most medical students have had the good fortune of never having been the patient, so we can’t expect to understand that experience. We will never truly achieve patient-centered care without putting ourselves in the shoes of a patient and family and getting lost in the system with them a time or two.

We used a module from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “A Guide to Shadowing: Seeing Care Through the Eyes of Patients and Families,” to guide our experience. We presented our findings from these experiences, including recommendations for improving the care experience, at a session that included patient advisors from Vidant Medical Center who provided additional patient perspectives on navigating health care settings.

“The future success of health care improvement for all is tied to every participant’s understanding of just how much trust and mutual engagement plays a role in patient healing,” said Henry Skinner, a retired businessman and active patient advisor with the school. “Thanks for allowing us to participate and observe the awakening of five bright new minds to the world of participative care.”

The first LINC Scholars cohort is taking a summer immersion course that provides a deep dive into the principles of patient safety, quality improvement, population health and team-based care. At the end of our fourth year of medical school, we’ll take the National Association for Healthcare quality’s Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality exam and will graduate with a distinction in health care transformation and leadership.

The LINC Scholars program is part of East Carolina University’s REACH initiative.

Published courtesy of AMA Wire