Engaging Patients and Their Families in Health Care Decisions
By Susan Van Dusen
Inspired by her late son’s battle with congenital heart disease, Julie Moretz of Augusta, Ga., has devoted her life to promoting the ideals of patient- and family-centered care across the country.
Now, the nationally known advocate for engaging patients and their families in health care decisions is bringing that passion to UAMS, beginning in May as its first-ever associate vice chancellor for patient- and family-centered care.
“As the parent of an ill child, I didn’t know the rules of a hospital and was often too shy to speak up. From that experience, I found my voice and began working to create a culture where it’s OK for patients and family members to be vocal about their own health care needs,” Moretz said.
In Augusta, she moved up the ranks from hospital volunteer to director of Family Services Development at the Medical College of Georgia, which is one of the first model programs for the movement. From there, Moretz served as director of special projects at the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care in Bethesda, Md.
“I have never met anyone more passionate about patient- and family- centered care than Julie. Her real-life experience gives her a unique and powerful perspective on this issue. We are honored to have her take the lead in this crucial endeavor at UAMS. Our goal is nothing short of transforming the way we include patients and families as full partners in their care,” said Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.
Moretz’ move to UAMS comes at a time when the university is poised to make great strides in the area of patient- and family-centered care.
“UAMS is at the crux of a watershed moment. Chancellor Dan Rahn truly understands the value of patient- and family-centered care and is committed to becoming a national leader in this area. The staff members are enthusiastic and ready to create a culture shift that will make true partners of patients, families and health care providers,” she said.
Core Concepts of Patient- and Family- Centered Care:
Respect and dignity.
Health care practitioners listen to and honor patient and family perspectives and choices. Patient and family knowledge, values, beliefs and cultural backgrounds are incorporated into the planning and delivery of care.
Health care practitioners communicate and share complete and unbiased information with patients and families in ways that are affirming and useful. Patients and families receive timely, complete, and accurate information in order to effectively participate in care and decision-making.
Patients and families are encouraged and supported in participating in care and decision-making at the level they choose.
Patients and families are also included on an institution-wide basis. Health care leaders collaborate with patients and families in policy and program development, implementation, and evaluation; in health care facility design; and in professional education, as well as in the delivery of care.
–Institute for Patient- And Family-Centered Care
The impetus of patient- and family-centered care took hold at UAMS in 2011 when John Shock, M.D., founding director of the UAMS Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, presented the concept to campus leaders. Shock was appointed to lead the effort, which is spawning improvements in the way health care professionals interact and communicate with those they serve.
In May, Shock will hand the baton to Moretz.
“This is the perfect time for a transition,” Shock said. “Our program is up and running, and we recently welcomed Dr. Roxane Townsend as our new hospital CEO. I am certain that Julie will bring a renewed energy to this initiative that will help us move forward in innovative and exciting ways.”
In addition to working with clinical staff in both inpatient and outpatient settings, Moretz will work with academic affairs and college deans as they educate future health care professionals about the importance of incorporating patient- and family-centered care in their practice.
A leadership team of UAMS faculty and staff meets weekly to reinforce and continue development of the program, while councils of patients and family members meet regularly to discuss and make recommendations on potential improvements to patient services. The councils are located at UAMS’ hospital, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, primary care clinics, neonatal intensive care unit and Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
Among the benefits of patient- and family-centered care are shorter hospital stays, lower costs per visit, increased patient compliance, decreased adverse events, higher employee retention rates, reduced operating costs and decreased malpractice claims.