I See You: Putting the Patient in the Center of the Healthcare Team

What Avatar Teaches Us About Using an Empathetic Approach to Treating Patients

In our blog post for this week, guest blogger Rebecca Bryan, DNP, adult nurse practitioner and Owner of Rebecca Bryan Consulting LLC, discusses the importance of understanding health concerns from the patient’s perspective.

My favorite moment in the movie Avatar is the love scene between protagonist Jake and Neytiri, a female Na’vi on the planet Pandora. Neytiri finds Jake’s Na’vi avatar unresponsive in the forest and realizes that his human form is in the mobile lab.

She jumps through the shattered window to find him unconscious and near death, suffocating in Pandora’s atmosphere. Desperately placing the oxygen mask on his face, she watches as Jake comes to life, looks Neytiri in the eyes, and says, “I see you.” Neytiri, who prior to this point, has only seen Jake in his avatar form, smiles and responds tenderly, “I see you.”

To appreciate the fullness of this moment, understand that humans were the enemy to the Na’vi, appropriating and destroying their sacred planet. Neytiri had fallen in love with Jake in his avatar form and was devastated when she learned he was human. This love scene was the moment when masks, paradoxically, removed, and soul saw soul, regardless of form.

Etic vs. Emic

That’s the shift in perspective from etic to emic.

That’s the paradigm that can put the patient in the center of the healthcare team.

I have been lecturing about, and helping organizations become, trauma-informed since 2013, but only recently discovered the vocabulary of “etic vs emic” as two ways to understand human behavior. This language was first coined by Kenneth Pike, a linguistic theoretician, in 1954, with etic pertaining to objective findings and emic pertaining to the meaning behind a finding.

With regard to human behavior, particularly through biomedical lens, an etic approach looks at a problem from the outside in. It relies on objective criteria to make a diagnosis, which is consistent with the traditional allopathic model.

Take cigarette smoking, for example. An etic intake would include the patient’s age of smoking onset and packs smoked per year, and the diagnosis would be ICD-10 code F17.200: Nicotine dependence, unspecified, uncomplicated.

An emic approach would respond to that ICD-10 label with a snort; is cigarette smoking ever uncomplicated?! Because an emic approach looks at things from the patient’s perspective – or, from the inside out, so to speak. An emic intake to evaluate cigarette smoking would include understanding what was happening when a patient started to smoke, the good things that smoking does for the patient (“it calms me down…it distracts me from my pain”), the barriers to quitting and the level of desire to quit. Asking patients questions like these gets to what I like to call “the root of why.” It gets to the bottom of things and can be transformative.

The Importance of Personal Experience

Trauma-informed practice calls for shifting from etic to emic, from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” The kind of trauma I am writing about here is relational, as compared to situational trauma like a car accident or a hurricane. While trauma can occur at any age, it is particularly impactful in childhood, and much of the science generating evidence-based practice stems from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) studies.

ACEs are common, cumulative and strongly associated with most of the leading causes of death in the U.S., as well as health risk behaviors like smoking, disordered eating and substance abuse. ACEs impact brain development, immune and hormonal systems, and even genetic expression – across the entire lifespan.

Positive events like growing up in a loving home, living in a safe space, and getting good at something counteract ACEs, again across the entire lifespan. In other words, our lived experience becomes our biology.

Walk a Mile in the Patient’s Shoes

That’s why it’s important to understand health concerns from the patient’s perspective. Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 80 percent of health outcomes are the result of factors other than healthcare. Traumatic experiences and adverse community challenges play a big role in this.

When we take the time to step in the patient’s shoes, we have a better chance at understanding what is driving health outcomes – and how to intervene. After all, the patients are the experts of their own lives!

Affirming patients’ experiences and helping them connect the dots across their lives is healing and places them in the center of the healthcare team. It facilitates relationships that are empowering. It says, loud and clear, “I see you.”

Make Your Media Event about Meaningful Stories

Transcend the Photo Op with Human-Interest Angles

This week, we’re revisiting our blog post about the importance of including heartfelt, human-interest stories when holding media events.

Every organization has media events, and everyone thinks theirs is special, different, or worthy of news coverage. The truth is, journalists have seen many of these happenings before, covered them ad nauseam, and maybe even ignore them altogether.

One way to entice cameras, of course, is creating a really great visual, something that they just can’t live without. But sometimes there’s nothing you can add visually, and some photo ops just don’t get reporters excited because they’ve been there, done that. That’s when it’s helpful to turn to the human story inside of your media event to generate great health system PR.

That party for underprivileged children? Not a big deal to jaded editors, but imagine if one of those kids is reunited with a military parent on leave during the party? We’ve seen these stories time and again, but there’s always interest because of the emotions involved.

Take a deep look at not only WHAT is happening at your media event, but WHO it is happening too. In any group, there’s usually one or two participants for whom the event is most meaningful. If you can find those people, and learn their backstories, you can more easily sell your event, because now it’s not merely a “photo op” but a human interest story.

A Love Story…Broken

Take our health system client’s recent “virtual dementia tour,” for example. This is a recurring opportunity for caregivers and family members to literally walk in the shoes of dementia patients, such as Alzheimer’s sufferers, seeing what they see and experiencing what they feel through special goggles, gloves, headphones and shoe inserts. The virtual dementia tour is provided by a handful of companies around the country, which contract with hospitals, hospice companies, nursing homes and other organizations to deliver the experience to those with an interest.

In our research, we found that TV stations and some newspapers have covered virtual dementia tours when they’ve occurred in other markets, and one or two even covered a prior event in this health system’s service area of Philadelphia. On the one hand, that meant there’s proven interest in the topic among the media. On the other, it’s not particularly new. So how could we excite the media for this latest tour?

Upon learning that one woman signed up for the dementia tour because her husband, a patient at our client’s assisted living facility, had Alzheimer’s and wanted to see what he was going through, we were sold, and we thought we’d be able to entice the media with it too. We were told she’d be happy to talk with a reporter, and even accompany one through the dementia experience for the cameras (within the constricts of what the tour provider allows, for proprietary reasons).

This couple had been married for 65 years, and the husband has been suffering from dementia for the past nine. This was her chance to better understand what goes on inside his head, particularly since he is no longer able to speak. A local television health reporter was intrigued, and she determined early in the process that her story about the virtual dementia tour would be focused on this woman. The reporter even requested still photos of the couple in better times, which the wife was happy to bring along.

Coverage was not only assured, but it was now a highlight of that evening’s newscast. While most photo ops might, at best, merit a 45-second voiceover, now that this was about people, rather than a high-tech, visual event, the result was a nearly three-minute feature story.

Build People into your Media Event Planning

When planning outreach for your media event, build into your plans the people who will be attending. Attempt to learn the following:

  • What motivates them to be there?
  • Why is this important to them?
  • What is their “backstory” as it relates to this event?
  • What will happen to them after the event, or how will things be different?

Not everyone’s going to have a relevant story, let alone one that might be newsworthy, so you might have to speak with several people, or staff or organizers who know some of them personally. But you’ll find it’s usually worth the effort.

It’s academic to say that all news is about people, but if you have a human face and a great story to complement an otherwise ordinary activity, your event becomes much more than an event.

Workplace Violence in Healthcare is a Real Threat

New Technologies Increase Security

SPRYTE Communications is an active member of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey’s Health Issues Committee. At our quarterly meeting on September 10, Symtech Solutions Marketing and Business Development Director Brittany Countis provided an overview of workplace violence towards healthcare providers, a growing concern. Countis shared her presentation with SPRYTE. We are running it as SPRYTE Insights’ guest blog this week.

Managing workplace violence in healthcare is a challenge, but life safety systems such as wearable panic buttons can help speed up response time to an emergency. When implemented in a solid violence prevention program, panic buttons can increase the safety of staff and patients, while mitigating risk for the enterprise.

Panic Buttons Are Vital in Violence Prevention Programs which is why they are being mandated in various cities, states and industries due to increase in violence. In hospitality, the city of Miami Beach and state of NJ have mandated the use of panic buttons in hotels over 100 rooms. In the education sector NJ is requiring panic buttons in schools K-12 and PA has provided state grants towards the purchase of panic buttons. The demand for panic button technology in healthcare is on the rise as violence against healthcare workers is being exposed.

Requiring Panic Buttons in Hospitality and Education

The House Education and Labor Committee recently passed the Workplace Violence and Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) which seeks an enforceable federal standard to disrupt the growing level of violence against nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders and other caregivers. This bill would offer protections to public-sector workers in the states not under OSHA oversight while calling on employers to identify risks; specify solutions; and require training, reporting and incident investigations. The legislation also would require an interim final OSHA standard one year after enactment and the completion of a final standard within 42 months.

Healthcare professions are at an increased risk for workplace violence. From 2002 to 2013, incidents of serious workplace violence requiring days off from work is four times more common in healthcare than in the private industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, health care and social service workers suffered 69% of all workplace violence injuries and were nearly five times more likely to experience violence on the job than the average US worker.

Healthcare workers are more likely to get injured at work than police officers and prison guards; nurses suffer in particular. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks incidence rates of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work, including “intentional injury by other person.” Of the 18,400 injuries reported in the private industry in 2017, 71% were reported in the healthcare and social assistance sector. And this only includes incidents that involved

Symtech Solutions Wearable Panic Button

A solid prevention program offers an effective approach to reduce or eliminate the risk of violence in the workplace. Emergency Call Systems such as Symtech Solutions’ wearable panic button are a vital tool as they can save time in locating a victim during an emergency or attack which can decrease the amount of damage done. Here is how it works:

  1. When an emergency occurs, every minute counts so it’s important to know the exact location of the victim so security can respond directly to the incident. With Symtech’s wearable panic button, security can identify the victim with 100% location accuracy.
  2. Auto-tracking of Symtech’s panic buttons, after the call for help is initiated. This allows security to track them throughout the facility and even into the parking garages.
  3. With Symtech’s wearable panic button, security will know who placed the call, so there is no need to take a roll call.
  4. Symtech’s wearable panic buttons have two-way feedback which indicates to the victim that the call for help was received and help is on the way.
  5. The use of Symtech’s wearable panic buttons reduces the disruption of patients and visitors in the event of an emergency by isolating the incident and responding to the location directly.
  6. Symtech’s wearable panic buttons are a discrete and silent way to call for help without escalating the situation as they can be worn inside clothing and do not annunciate upon activation.
  7. Having a means to call for help provides piece of mind to caregivers who risk themselves for the safety of others everyday.
  8. Panic buttons can prevent bad PR by minimizing the catastrophic damage of an attack and costly legal disputes.

Workplace Violence Costs Healthcare Providers

Workplace violence is taxing on the worker, but also on the organization. A 2017 report prepared for the American Hospital Association estimated that workplace violence cost U.S. hospital and health systems approximately $2.7 billion in 2016, including $280 million related to preparedness and prevention, $852 million in unreimbursed medical care for victims, $1.1 billion in security and training costs, and an additional $429 million in medical care, staffing, indemnity, and other costs related to violence against hospital employees. Further, health workers who were victims of violence experienced an average of 112.8 hours per year of sick, disability, and leave time (excluding long- and short-term disability), which was 60.4 hours more per year than counterparts who had not experienced workplace violence, therefore mitigating the risk for the enterprise. – Brittany Countis

Reflecting on Tennis Injuries, Urgent Care and Thought Leadership

How Brand Spokespeople can Inspire Confidence in Urgent Care Centers

My ladies’ doubles tennis team had its final match of the summer last week, and it turns out that my opponent was one of the same opponents I had three summers ago when I broke my wrist during my first match of the season.

Fortunately, we were able to play two sets this time. After the second set, she asked me if I once was injured at the beginning of a match a few years ago. I confirmed that was me who had an epic wipeout running for a ball that June in 2016.

I remembered I had blogged about the brand battle I had that day, driving around with one arm trying to figure out which urgent care center to go to.

Well, it’s been two years since that blog was posted. As I was re-reading it, I kept thinking about how much SPRYTE could contribute to a multi-location urgent care brand.

That’s because we’re hyperlocal healthcare PR experts. We’ve had a blast and done a great job building the reputation of Holy Redeemer Health System’s single Pediatric UrgiCare Center. And, we deploy a favorite consumer public relations strategy that other urgent care brands should consider: the Brand Spokesperson.

One example of this is our work to leverage Dr. Avi Gurwitz – a pediatrician at Holy Redeemer and medical director of its Pediatric UrgiCare Center – as an expert resource for local print and broadcast journalists. His extensive pediatric experience has made him a great go-to expert for a variety of health-related stories, including a Q&A segment on KYW-AM about spring sports and concussion prevention.

Additionally, Dr. Gurwitz has provided tips for families traveling during vacation season in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and discussed cases he has seen in the UrgiCare Center to warn against trending risks like Lyme disease and the dangers of heavy backpacks.

So, what type of impression is made on Holy Redeemer’s potential pediatric patients when they see and hear knowledgeable, articulate and warm Dr. Gurwitz interviewed by broadcast and print healthcare journalists? We think it’s a very positive one that can make kids and their parents feel confident about the pediatric care they’ll receive from Dr. Gurwitz and his team.

While many people aren’t naturally-gifted spokespeople like Dr. Gurwitz, urgent care organizations should utilize this consumer marketing tactic as part of their integrated marketing strategies whenever possible. Large, brightly-lit signs and billboards don’t always build this type of confidence in your patient care team.

Devine Grades Healthcare Sector with a “B”

Expansion Must be Balanced with Reimbursement

The Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey stages a very successful, well-attended quarterly South Jersey Business Outlook where panelists from different industries grade the economy today and also provide their six-month forecasts.

Representing the consumer healthcare industry on the panel in June was Joseph W. Devine, FACHE, who is President and Chief Experience Officer of Jefferson Health New Jersey and Chairman of the Boards of the New Jersey Hospital Association and the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, where I’m a fellow Board member.

In spite of never before seen revenue growth and expansion, Devine gave the healthcare industry a B grade for both now and his six-month forecast.  That’s because of “uncertainty,” Devine said.  “We have to balance investment and (government) reimbursement.”  Government reimbursement rates are forever changing and unpredictable.  Still, healthcare expansion in New Jersey is robust and gaining strength.

Five hundred million dollars in taxes contributed to the State of New Jersey.  More than $565 million in free care to state citizens.  More than 120,000 full time hospital employees.  These are some of the statewide economic impact statistics Devine provided.

Investment in South Jersey Healthcare is Staggering

Closer to home and specific to Southern New Jersey, Devine said Inspira Health Network is spending $356 million building its new hospital near Rowan University in Mullica Hill, Gloucester County and that Jefferson Health is spending more than $450 million on expanding its campuses in Cherry Hill and Washington Township, Camden County.

Devine called the amount of new investment “staggering.”  And all the major players are also buying new electronic health record (EHR) platforms, if they don’t already have them, including Jefferson Health New Jersey, which spent $115 million on a “Cadillac” EHR, which goes live in September.  “This is what consumers expect,” Devine said.  “You have to have it (an EHR.)”

Globally, venture capitalists have invested more than $9 billion in digital healthcare and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has acquired more than 60 healthcare companies in recent years, Devine continued.  And speaking of healthcare tech, Jefferson is driving innovation by partnering with five different startup companies in Silicon Valley.

So, what does this all mean for a local, independent healthcare communications consultancy?  After years of supporting both for and nonprofit healthcare companies, two years ago, the expanding, diversifying healthcare sector Devine described is why my agency Simon PR reinvented itself as SPRYTE Communications, a specialist in the healthcare provider space.

While Devine’s optimism was guarded due to government’s unpredictable reimbursement posture, my excitement grew as his remarks continued.  There are so many outstanding healthcare prospects for SPRYTE to pursue in New Jersey.  I’m not ready to give SPRYTE a grade but in a cautiously optimistic way, I believe, we are very well positioned for the healthcare marketplace today and in the future.  -Lisa Simon

At SPRYTE Healthcare Communications Means Consumer PR

Hyper Local is So Credible and Rewarding

When you say healthcare communications agency in Philadelphia or New Jersey, the assumption is that you’re focused on pharmaceutical or life sciences companies.  We’ve met so many successful local niche consultants serving those industries at every stage of their business cycles.  And the increasingly visible publicly-traded global holding companies have also located their robust healthcare agency brands in Philadelphia in recent years to be closer to their clients.

Well, SPRYTE Communications specializes exclusively in healthcare too but we support healthcare providers.  Not in a business-to-business capacity.  Our strength is in consumer public relations.

Here’s an example of a campaign we conducted on behalf of Holy Redeemer Health System, a client since 2006, last week.

Holy Redeemer Opens 5th Outpatient Medical Center in Bucks County

When Holy Redeemer opened its fifth Bucks County outpatient medical center, consumer public relations was the only external communications function deployed.

The brand new 18,000 square foot ambulatory care center provides primary care, obstetrical and gynecological care, orthopedic care and rehabilitation services, professional counseling, physical therapy and radiology services.

The opening of Redeemer HealthCare at Richboro is of interest to individuals and businesses living in its vicinity for a variety of consumer and economic impact reasons.  That’s why there was wide pick up of our news release by local daily and weekly newspapers.

But the ambulatory care center’s opening was also of interest regionally where the highly competitive healthcare provider industry is widely covered.  John George, the Philadelphia Business Journal’s healthcare writer, conducted interviews with Holy Redeemer’s senior leaders and wrote the most comprehensive article about the System’s continued expansion in to new geographies in Bucks County.

Finally, Holy Redeemer’s expansion was also of interest to the trade media, with Becker’s covering it with three highly flattering “Insights.”

Many healthcare providers think that paid advertising is the only way to build their visibility in a local marketplace.  Of course, it certainly won’t hurt.  But think of the brand battles out there on billboards, radio and TV.  In Philadelphia, it seems the biggest advertisers are our many outstanding healthcare providers.

But don’t overlook the power of public relations and the credibility delivered by news media covering your healthcare provider brand in action.  Do you agree that the consumer earned media coverage of Holy Redeemer’s Richboro expansion is solid proof of its newsworthiness?