4 ways hospitals can foster family-centered care

Hospitals hoping to better understand how to provide patient-centered care could learn some lessons from pediatric hospitals, according to an NEJM Catalyst article. That's because what patients really need is family-centered care, the authors contend--and pediatric hospitals like Nemours Children's Health System in Delaware, New Jersey, excel at it.

The article focuses on four lessons learned by clinicians at Nemours:

  1. Include families in rounds. Families are pulled into discussions about patients' care plans, helping them "regain a sense of control by helping them participate in the child's care at a level they choose," wrote authors Thomas H. Lee, M.D., of Press Ganey Associates, Inc., and Paul Rosen, M.D., and James F. Burrows of Nemours. 
  2. Create family advisory councils and youth advisory councils. Family councils of 20 to 25 caregivers and smaller youth councils of patients 10 to 18 years old advise clinical staff and administrators about operations, medical care, patient and family satisfaction, and safety.
  3. Find creative ways to limit pain and fear. At a children's hospital, clinicians often apply topical lidocaine to reduce the pain from needle sticks. They also have child life specialists who use art, music and animal-assisted therapists to reduce patient anxiety. The same principles can be used with adults, the authors said.
  4. Lower barriers to visitor and technology access. Patients want wireless Internet, among other digital services, to stay connected with social networks and communicate with healthcare professionals.

The January issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics also explores patient- and family-centered care. Articles explore topics including finding the balance between what the patient wants and what the family wants, the ethical challenges of involving families in ICU care, and the best strategy for successful patient- and family-centered care. An American Medical Association announcement calls family-centered care a "movement toward participatory medicine that values the opinions of and relationships between patients and their family members."

Hospitals also can learn from the way pediatric hospitals are designed, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Family-centered care design elements include rooms large enough to accommodate several family members, and small tables in the rooms where families can play games or gather to eat together.

To learn more:
- read the NEJM Catalyst article
- here's a link to the AMA Journal of Ethics