The Occupy Wall Street movement has brought renewed attention to the voices of ordinary people. Healthcare in the U.S. historically has not been open to the voices of consumers. However, the transformation of the U.S. healthcare system requires the inclusion of the voices of healthcare consumers in decision making at a variety of levels. Healthcare organizations from the federal government to small rural hospitals and continuing care centers must find ways to include the voices of consumers in decision making.
One of the key elements in Patient-centered care is the inclusion of the voices of patients, residents, and family and community members in organizational decision making. One way this has been done successfully in many organizations is through advisory councils that include consumers and other organizational stakeholders. Many hospitals across the country now have Patient and Family Advisory Councils that meet regularly to include those the organization serves in making decisions from design of space to the delivery of healthcare services. Alegent Health, a large, regional healthcare system based in Omaha, NE, included oncology patients and their families in the design of a new Oncology unit at Lakeside Hospital. Patients and family members had input from everything interior design to the clinical processes on the unit.
Social media has proven to be another important vehicle for the inclusion of patient’s voices in healthcare. E-Patients and patient advocates have used social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to make the needs and wants of individual patients and healthcare consumers as a group widely known.
Occupy Wall Street and other current popular movements raise awareness for the need to again listen to the voices of everyday people. This case is as true in healthcare as it is in any arena. For too long government, insurance companies and healthcare providers themselves have set the playing field in healthcare without much regard for the needs and wants of patients. But the things are changing. Patients not only want to have a voice in healthcare decision making they are beginning to demand it. For healthcare to truly change it needs to respond like other industries to the needs and wants of those who use it products and services.
Democracy is being reinvigorated around the globe from Wall Street to Cairo. Healthcare must embrace the voice of patients and consumers for true transformation to take place. It’s time for democracy to find its way into healthcare. The U.S. healthcare system cannot be transformed with involving those who use it services.