Patient Safety

An Interview With The Creator Of PatientAider: Navigating the World of Hospitals and Healthcare

By Michael Wong, JD (founder and executive director, the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Often times, as a patient, the hospital and its staff can be a bewildering and seemingly unfriendly environment; processes, procedures, and even the language spoken can truly be confusing. In a recent NY Times article, “In the Hospital, a Degrading Shift From Person to Patient”, Benedict Carey writes:

Entering the medical system, whether a hospital, a nursing home or a clinic, is often degrading… at many others the small courtesies that help lubricate and dignify civil society are neglected precisely when they are needed most, when people are feeling acutely cut off from others and betrayed by their own bodies.

To help navigate this world of hospitals and healthcare, I recently spoke with Mari Miceli. Mari has worked over 15 years as a registered nurse after graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell with a BS in Nursing and the University of Illinois with a BFA. in Industrial Design. She is also a Regional Network Chair, a volunteer position at the Patient Safety Movement Foundation.

But, most interestingly, and the reason why I reached out to her for an interview: Mari – along with her colleague John McConnell – recently developed a mobile application called PatientAider. It’s a tool designed to help patients, families and their advocates while in hospital educate themselves about patient safety.

PatientAider merits attention as technology continues to be more and more seamlessly integrated into our worlds. Moreover, as a patient safety community, we focus a good portion of our energies on clinicians and the policies and technologies that can be employed to keep patients safe.

This interview, and the PatientAider app, looks at patient safety from the other side of the spectrum: from the patient’s point of view. What happens if we could bridge that gap, as well?

On Who Should Use the PatientAider

Miceli: It’s a resource and it’s for patients families and friends in the hospital.  It has communication strategies to help patients and families stand up for themselves, and also explains medical language to provide patient safety information and then it has patient stories in it to help explain why the education is so important.

On Improving Physician-Patient Communication

Miceli: PatientAider will help patients communicate better with their physicians and nurses and others that are treating them in the hospital. An important part of the application is videos that give an idea how patients can approach their doctors and you know respectfully ask questions to help them when they’re confused.

What Drove Mari to Create PatientAider

Miceli: I got my idea after attending the Patient Safety Movement Summit in 2015

I have been in health care for about 15 years, as a nurse, so I have had experiences with patients, unfortunately becoming sicker or dying from medical errors. But, more importantly, going to the Summit I was listening to the family members who were explaining how devastating when their loved ones died.  

Hospitals work very hard to not have medical errors occur, but then I thought wouldn’t it be nice if the patient and their families had some way to get a better understanding and to help themselves.

How Patients and Families Can Get PatientAider

Miceli: PatientAider is available from both the Apple and the Google store and it has been used by different patient safety advocates. They’ve reviewed it and one who lost her daughter, told me “I wish I would have had something like this when I was in the hospital with her. This would have given me a better idea of what was going on.”  I responded that it was tragic that she had to feel this way.

On the Importance of Clinicians Understanding Their Patients

Miceli: As a nurse, when I first meet patients and their family, I try to figure out if there’s any barriers to work with, whether that be language or cognition support they’re going to have, and then the most important thing is to ask them to explain what they think is going on and just listen to them.  

I do try to put myself in their place knowing that you know they haven’t slept well, they’ve got different people in and out of the room, they don’t have much control over their environment, and most of the time they are very stressed.

On Fostering a Culture of Safety

Miceli: Leadership should definitely be be be involved in fostering patient safety to achieve a culture of safety but it’s an exercise that everyone has to be involved in. Patient safety has to start at the top and be emulated throughout the hospital. If nurses and doctors see that their hospital administrators are taking an active interest in patient safety, the whole culture of the hospital changes that way.

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