Posted by Jennie David on December 06, 2012
A children’s hospital is, at its core, fundamentally different than an adult hospital; not better or worse, but different. My memories of my pediatric hospital include bright murals running down the halls, butterfly-shaped wards, having the Easter bunny visit when I was an inpatient, and a box full of finger-puppets courtesy of the blood lab. I was still sick, but there was a very intentional way that my parents were involved, like extra chairs in hospital rooms for family to dish out opinions and help decide. The first time I was in the adult hospital my Mom cried. The hospital room was beige, had four beds, and was wholly adult while I still felt like I was trying to grow up.
When I was transitioning to adult care, I had a singular ‘transition appointment’ where I was supposed to magically become an adult (this, however, did not happen). It’s kind of like if you want to get from point A to point B with a dozen eggs - you should probably keep them in the carton to transfer them, versus spilling them into the bag without protection and ending up at point B with a bag dripping with yolk.
That’s why it’s so exciting to be talking about Patient Activation. Just as the name suggests, the goal is to help patients and their parents become more active and engaged in their medical care. If you want to go to Spain and speak fluently, you need to do more than buy a dictionary – you need to practice.
Currently, the Patient Activation intervention is capitalizing on something patients are really great at – using their phones. Participants receive texts on a weekly basis with a question about their health status and when they text back, the answers are saved. And then all of their responses from the Inter-Visit Planner are aggregated and given to the participants and their doctors. What’s so cool about this is that participants and doctors are entering an appointment with things to talk about, which help everyone make better decisions about their medical care.
Another really interesting part of this intervention is the Patient Status Tracker, which helps translate medical language into accessible English. I can remember sitting in appointments when my doctors would talk to one another and I had no idea what they were saying, even though I was sure they were speaking English – medical lingo is hard to understand, especially when it comes to test results. The tracker gives participants an insight into their care through visualizations of test results and plain language.
Growing up is hard. All of a sudden it’s a lot to be responsible for, but when one of those responsibilities is medical care for a chronic illness, it’s all the more important to have the necessary skills and support. This way we can truly stand shoulder to shoulder with our doctors, hand in hand, to make the best decisions for ourselves and our diseases.