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Breaking The Seal

How do you do it? Here are a few tips I offer groups to work through when they are putting together the proverbial table discussion to start working on an important topic or issue:

  1. Think through the various sides of your topic

  2. Think through the voices you NEED to have buy-in from to succeed in your goal(s) as a team

  3. Include patients (caregivers and family included)

  4. Include clinicians

  5. Toss in a wild card

A few words of wisdom from someone who has worked on these gatherings for the better part of a decade:

If a population is particularly vulnerable, beef up the representation among that population so the voices included feel supported and embraced, not isolated.  Examples I often point to here are thinking through the audiences of something impacting the front desk team that’s being worked on by management at a hospital or something impacting services to elderly patients that’s being worked on because of cost impacts to the hospital. Both are important tasks to get right, but having one voice from the vulnerable population will likely breed intimidation and less participation from that voice.

Empathically consider how that person will feel entering the middle-school cafeteria of your lunch room.

What sorts of folks work for wild cards? I’ve thrown in a comedian to a grief and mortality workshop, a teacher to a clinic workshop, and some space and aviation goodness to an EHR planning workshop. Stay creative. The wild cards work best when they have a bit of a personal connection to the topic at hand – as an example, the teacher knew healthcare was frustrating to the school when it came to kids with asthma but she did not have a personal story identifying her as a patient.

Do not take a clinician from your team and say, “we are all patients” or “she’s also a caregiver to her mom,” and think you succeeded at the include patients note above. If someone is regularly on payroll at the clinic or somewhere in healthcare, even as your Chief Patient Officer, they aren’t a patient advocate for your project. If someone would feel responsible for legal reasons to perform CPR in the room if something happened, they aren’t a patient advocate.

Always make sure you are bringing in the most valuable feedback for your project – you are going to great lengths to make it happen!  You will need to finesse this collection of individuals a bit, it is not an absolute formula. If you can’t already tell, staying nimble is important!

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