It’s about Relationships


Earlier this spring, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the National Forum on Patient Experience West.  I heard amazing stories and ideas from across the country and the U.S. on advancing client- and family-centered care.

One such story that resonated with me was shared by April Kyle. April is from the South Central Foundation (SCF) in Alaska. In describing SCF’s Nuka System of Care, April used the analogy of trying to hit targets. In some industries (e.g., mechanical, manufacturing) hitting a target really just depends on throwing a rock accurately at the target. But for those of us who work in health care, we know that it’s messy; care delivery happens in in a human and complex adaptive environment, and as April points out, it’s more like throwing a bird at a target. That means we have to think about the attractor if we want to ensure success.

In medicine we have become really good at throwing birds at targets. Our downfall has been that we only focus on the throwing part, then wonder why our patients aren’t more engaged, or why we’re not improving health outcomes. How many times has a patient been told, “take this prescription and get it filled,” only to discover the medication is not covered by their drug plan and they simply can’t afford to take it? How often are stroke patients discharged from hospital with instructions to get therapy in their home community, only to discover once they are settled back home that the treatment they’ve been prescribed doesn’t exist in their rural area?

A light bulb went on for me as I listened to patients and providers speak at this year’s Quality Summit: Health care is all about relationships. It’s about caring for each other as people first. It’s about recognizing who our patients are — outside of the health care system.  Because the reality is that health care takes place in a social, religious, and family context. Every day we are influenced by our values, our beliefs, and our habits.

If we really want to move forward and provide the best care possible we need to take time to understand what happens in the lives of our patients outside of our institutional or clinical walls.

South Central Foundation realized that, in order to provide great care, they needed to focus on relationships. In fact, this is so critical that they have made it their number one operating principle – that relationships between their customer-owner, family and provider must be fostered and supported. Relationships are the core clinical service that SCF offers: they actually train their staff on how to do this well because the ability to genuinely connect with people requires a particular skillset and ability.

When providers, patients, and families are in relationship, there is trust and accountability and there is honesty – and how can this not lead to better engagement and an improved patient experience?

So here’s my challenge to you: Saskatchewan Change Day was launched at this year’s Quality Summit. As part of this new social movement initiative, we were each encouraged to commit to take one action we feel can make a difference in our health care system.

Patients: What can YOU do to ensure that providers know what they need to know about you as a person when they are helping you make decisions about your treatment?

Providers:  What small steps can YOU take in your busy daily practice to build stronger relationships with the people you serve?

, , , , ,

3 Responses to “It’s about Relationships”

  1. Heather Thiessen
    Heather Thiessen
    June 13, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Oh yes we are as only touching something brilliant!!!

    I can’t wait to see where we roll from here!!!

    With leaders like you and many others in the SHR and provincially, we will get there!!!!

  2. Heather Thiessen
    Heather Thiessen
    June 12, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Well said Lisa. As a patient I see have seen and been that patient really not included. I have also unfortunately learned consequences when patients are not heard and then we are dealing with a critical incident.

    I truly believe we need to start embedding the core principles of Patient and Family Centred Care in those who we educate and train. As it will be through hearing situations and how it felt from those who receive the care.

    It should be standard that a patient is a true partner and all things pertaining to their care be discussed with them. Never ever rushed and finally ending with a ” is there anything else I can help you with “.

    I think this shift in culture would help make the whole patient experience more trusting, educational and finally the patient really feeling heard.

    Patients are a wealth of information. By taking the time to get a bit of background on them and how they feel about things will truly make the whole patient experience a lot better.

    I know I am trying to hard to be a part of my caregivers team but it is a two way street.

    Thanks Lisa for this reminder


    • Lisa Clatney
      Lisa Clatney
      June 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Heather,
      Thanks for your comment. It is amazing what can happen when providers and patients truly embrace being partners in care. And I am thrilled that you are involved with the program we have in which first year medical and pharmacy students are paired with patient and family advisors who mentor students on the core principles of client and family centred care – we are on the right track!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share your opinions and questions about this post. We welcome different points of view; but ask that you be respectful and constructive.  Your comments will be moderated before they appear on the site. Your Email address will be kept private.