Sunday, April 22, 2012

Introduction to “Unum Vox” & The Importance of Health Care Team

Ryan Miller, second year med student
IHI Open School, SD Chapter President

In 1910, William James Mayo spoke of what we now call “patient-centeredness” at the commencement address of Rush Medical College.  He stated, "It (has become) necessary to develop medicine as a cooperative science; the clinician, the specialist, and the laboratory workers uniting for the good of the patient.”  He further stated, “Individualism in medicine can no longer exist."  As you can see, teamwork in medicine is not a new concept yet 20th century medical education and healthcare delivery has greatly struggled not because we haven’t seen new and improved ways to treat the patient’s disease but because we have been doing this largely in “silos”. So here we are in the 21st century with its growing complexity, having to revisit these fundamental concepts and place them as priorities. 
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) South Dakota chapter’s mission is “To bring together multiple healthcare disciplines and teaching institutions for learning and collaboration on patient safety and quality improvement. We seek to do this through the common platform of the IHI Open School and by building teamwork among us as South Dakota learners. All of this is for the patient’s best interest, which is healthcare’s reason for being. We therefore seek to foster patient-centered environments through learning approaches that address the complexity inherent in healthcare delivery systems, into which the patient enters. To these ends we seek to help equip students from all disciplines and at any stage of learning, with the tools necessary to become leaders in patient safety and quality improvement.”
Students recognize the need to work as a cohesive team. When members of our IHI Open School chapter were asked what they think most needs to be improved in healthcare settings today, the themes of teamwork, communication, and patient-centeredness were far and away the most mentioned. One of our Physician Assistant students said, “Ensuring that the patient and family are WELL informed and understand the situation. COMMUNICATION between disciplines. No one is ever on the same page. E.g. order CT with contrast on patient with renal disease… causes lots of delays to determine if risk outweighs benefit.”  An occupational therapy student said, “Professionalism both with interactions between workers, patients, and co-workers; true empathy or care for the patient at all times.” Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has spoken widely about the impact of these types of stories on the care we provide patients.
Recognizing the power of story and perspective, we would like to introduce the inaugural blog of the IHI Open School, South Dakota Chapter!  The blog, “Unum Vox,” (Latin for “One Voice”), serves as a new way to share our experiences, learn from each other, and most importantly, speak with one voice for the patient.  Unum Vox” will feature the writings of South Dakota health care students, professionals and faculty on topics related to the South Dakota chapter’s theme “Together One Voice For The Patient.” Potential areas include patient safety, performance improvement, leadership, professionalism, communication, teamwork, systems thinking, human factors, reliable design and just culture. It is hoped that these subjects will be explored through stories of real patients and their caregivers, allowing all who read it to continually improve their own ability to seek out the patient’s best interest. This blog will be updated monthly and every South Dakota health care professional student, who is also a member of IHI, has the opportunity to contribute. We are delighted that Laura Danielson has both taken on the leadership for editorial review of Unum Vox…and has written the first Unum Vox blog with a compelling account of events in her personal journey as a learner and as a family member.
Blog posts may be a maximum of 1,000 words and must relate to the chapter’s theme “Together One Voice For The Patient”. Ideas can be drawn from clinical, classroom, personal experiences, opinion, responses to articles and more. Upon submission, several editors will evaluate blogs and the chosen blog author will be notified. Individuals who are chosen will be identified on the website. To submit a blog post, email Laura at  We encourage you to write for this blog!  With the diverse experiences that members of our chapter have had, we can truly learn from each other to improve care, and speak as “one voice.” 

Ryan Miller is the founder and chapter president of the South Dakota Chapter of IHI Open School and is a second year medical student at the Sanford USD School of Medicine.

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