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Giving Care That Counts: Reimagining Quality Care with Patient Experiences at the Heart

12.20.2017

What does it mean to “give care that counts”?

Lael, a Bostonian and a member of Health Leads’ Patient Advisory Council, believes that quality care depends on having doctors who understand all the factors that keep her happy and healthy – not only her medical conditions but also the social and environmental challenges that shape her daily life. We know that factors such as stable housing, access to healthy food, and reliable transportation profoundly impact our health, yet, too often, these issues aren’t reflected in traditional medical charts.

Health Leads launched our Patient Advisory Councils (PACs) to ensure that our work remains focused on what matters most to the people who rely on our programs – and to elevate patient voices in defining the future of what counts as quality healthcare. Lael was a founding PAC member, and her experiences and incredible insight – along with those of dozens of other participants – have helped illuminate persistent care gaps that contribute to health inequities.

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Lael_FeatureLael is a proud mother raising her children in the city that she loves. She is a grandmother, a passionate reader, a dancer and committed to living her life with joy and laughter. She aspires to have a tenth of her mother’s joyful spirit. But recently, living out that joy has been difficult. 

This past summer, Lael experienced excruciating back pain that kept her from the activities that brought her happiness. Seeking treatment at a nearby hospital, she was passed from office to office, doctor to doctor — all unable to offer any long-term solution.

Reiterating her story became frustrating and humiliating. With each passing visit, she felt increasingly defined by the growing list of medications in her chart and further away from any answers. Lael’s doctors continued to write prescriptions despite her reluctance to continue with prescription pain medications which interfered with her day-to-day life. Lacking comfort and trust with any of the rotating set of physicians, it became increasingly difficult for Lael to advocate for herself.

When Lael decided to switch hospitals, she was finally assigned a primary care physician to see regularly — someone who took the time to understand all the factors shaping her health. Knowing that finally her voice was being heard,  she was able to advocate for options that aligned with her daily life. And, together, they found a solution to her pain.  

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Lael’s experience is a powerful example of the need to place the patient — the full person — at the center of care. Too often the policies, practices and infrastructure that sustain our healthcare system fail to account for social and environmental challenges that affect our health. Knowing the full picture allows clinicians to more easily recognize and address these issues, leading to improved health outcomes. And with our Patient Advisory Council as a guide, Health Leads works to empower healthcare providers with the tools and resources they need to ask the right questions, make meaningful connections, and deliver quality care.

This holiday season, we hope that you will support Health Leads’ work to ensure lived experiences are at the center of healthcare. Join us in giving care that counts. 

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