Irene, Lorrie and Lindsay
Irene Andress, vice-president, patient experience, health professions & chief nursing executive; Lorrie Hamilton, director, patient experience, bioethics, patient relations and spiritual care and Lindsay Siple, patient and family education specialist.

Health literacy specialist Lindsay Siple partners with patients to launch PODS, improve satisfaction for people transitioning home after surgery

By Atifa Hamir

When Lindsay Siple joined Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), Toronto East Health Network, as the patient and family education specialist in early 2019, she did not anticipate how quickly her work on Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS) would improve the patient experience for individuals transitioning home from hospital after surgery.

The key to success? Co-designing care practices with patients – after all, they are the experts of their own care.

PODS, originally developed by the University Health Network, is a research-based tool that aims to support patients in their transition from hospital to home, wherever home may be. After learning 50 per cent of patients who had surgery didn’t get enough information before leaving the hospital, MGH used the PODS framework to build patient and staff capacity, with the goal of improving patient experience and closing any gaps in knowledge.

“I have a background in knowledge translation and I’ve had the chance to work for similar projects, but I’ve never been able to actually see the impact my work has on such a tangible level,” says Lindsay. “With PODS, I see patients leaving the hospital more confident in their ability to take care of themselves and comfortable with the knowledge they have. It makes my work so rewarding.”

Using the existing PODS framework, Lindsay and her colleagues rolled out a three-part project entitled Getting it Right: Partnering with Patients and Families to Improve the Journey Home using PODS (Patient Oriented Discharge Summary). The project’s three elements ensure patients receive the information and support they need before transitioning home. The elements include:

  1. Implementation of an automated phone call to a patient 48 hours after returning home to confirm if they received enough information during their transition and to flag any concerns.
  2. Education and training opportunities for staff to improve conversations between providers and patients.
  3. One page handouts for patients discussing the five most important things they should know after returning home. Including: how they’ll feel after surgery, how their activities may change, what medication to take, what post-op appointments to attend and where to get more information.

The team partnered with more than 150 patients and families through the entire process, from identifying knowledge gaps to creating education materials. Partners came from all over the hospital including the Patient Experience Panel and patients in hospital recovering from surgery.

“The PODS initiative looks at hospital discharge from the patient’s point of view; what do I need to know once I get home,” says Lynn Koza, a PEP member who assisted with the project. “The phrase ‘patient-centred care’ is easy to say, but much more difficult to actually demonstrate. Recalling my own experience many years ago as a patient undergoing traumatic surgery, my mind was too scattered to clearly understand it all at the time. Looking back, I feel I was discharged without an adequate amount of information and support. Participating in this PODS project was my way of helping to make things better for future patients.”

For Lindsay, the project exemplified a certain saying that’s important to her.

 “As the saying goes, ‘Nothing about me, without me’. We can’t make something for our patients without knowing what they want,” says Lindsay. “Including them in the process meant that we were able to modify and tailor this tool in a way that would work best for them.”

Since the project’s implementation, staff have noted an increase in patient satisfaction amongst patients using PODS, with an increase of 36 per cent of patients who agreed they definitely had enough information about what to do if they were worried about their health at home and an increase of 51 per cent of patients who would recommend the hospital to their family and friends. Based on these successes, the team has already started to expand the project into other areas of the hospital.

“Our vision is to create health at the hospital, but as healthcare providers I think we all hope that this extends past our doors and continues at home,” says Lindsay. “I hope that through this project, we are able to change the way our providers are having conversations with patients, ensuring that no matter why our patients are here, they have learned how to better care for themselves and their loved ones.”

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