Decision making program introduced at WHCG agm

The Wimmera’s leading health organisation wants to see more inclusion for patients and clients around the decision making for their health needs.

With the backing of Deakin University, Wimmera Health Care Group has started a ‘whole of organisation’ project called Your Thoughts Matter. The project guides clinicians to ask open questions and make sure their patient or client has more of a say in their own treatment.

UK Healthcare communication expert Professor Jonathon Silverman spoke about the open decision making process at Wimmera Health Care Group’s annual general meeting. A retired GP of 30 years and former Dean at the School of Clinical Medicine at Cambridge University, Professor Silverman is professor of Academic General Practice at Deakin University.

He has been researching and educating the importance of communication in the health industry for three decades. Professor Silverman demonstrated how including the patient/client in decision-making, not only gave them a better understanding of their situation but it also saved time.

WHCG director of Medical Services Professor Alan Wolff is supporting the implementation of the Your Thoughts Matter project with training headed by Meg Chiswell and Professor Peter Martin from Deakin University’s School of Medicine. Several WHCG clinicians have started the training.

Prof Wolff said community feedback had suggested there were some concerns around communication between clinicians and patients.

“The feedback suggested we are providing a high level of ‘state of the art’ medical treatment,” Prof Wolff said.

“But we weren’t routinely sitting down with the patients and asking if we had addressed all of their concerns,” he said.

“There were also other general communication concerns such as there wasn’t enough time given to explaining conditions and procedures.

Patient feedback included ‘the doctors often seemed rushed’ and ‘I didn’t understand what they were telling me’. Another common concern was around people entering the room and checking patient charts without introducing themselves or explaining what they were doing.

Prof Wolff said the Your Thoughts Matter project was for all WHCG staff, both clinical and non-clinical.

Deakin University is educating 15 members of our staff and they will in turn train other staff members including our doctors,” he said.

“It’s an easy program but a very important one and what I like about it is that I am able to tap into a world class program 30 seconds from my office door.”

Prof Wolff said the change required to make communication better was not difficult.

“The first step for any communication with a patient or client is to introduce yourself.

“Then, rather than stand, sit down by the bed so you are at eye level with the patient, ask open questions and find out what they are really concerned about.

“It may be that a relative died from a similar condition, it might be the cost of the treatment or they might have a pet at home that needs looking after.”

Prof Wolff said the project had already provided successful outcomes.

“One member who works in the emergency department said the training had made a big difference.

“When the ED is busy, instead of just apologising for the wait, she has first acknowledged to patients that their wait has been long and then provided an explanation as to why there has been a delay.

“The patient response has been so much better that way.”

  • Your Thoughts Matter is the first component of Deakin University’s ‘Skin Deep’ program which is trialling at Wimmera Health Care Group and Bairnsdale Regional Health Service with the support of Safer Care Victoria.

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