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Are we in the business of healing?

Written by Catherine Dale, Programme Director – Patient Safety and Patient Experience at Health Innovation Network

I was recently lucky enough to present on co-designing healthcare with patients at the Beryl Institute’s US-wide conference in Chicago. I was reunited with Tiffany Christensen a Vice President at Beryl.

While at this conference on Patient Experience I found myself talking to plenty of people about the relationship between ‘patient safety’ and ‘patient experience’. It seems to me and to others that there is an artificial differentiation between these elements of healthcare and that, to most people not working in healthcare, they are inextricably linked. In order for healthcare to be a good experience, it has to be and feel safe.

One of the keynote speakers was Lee Woodruff whose journalist husband Bob was significantly injured in a roadside bomb in Iraq. In her description of the recovery of Bob and the whole family, Lee told the audience that we were “in the business of healing”. There was something about the way she put this that made me realise she meant me too, not just my clinical colleagues. It reminded me of what I learned working in PALS and regularly dealing with the concerns of patients and their loved ones.

When someone gets a letter with the wrong information on it; when the clinic staff cannot access their medical records; when the waiting room is cluttered, messy and hectic in healthcare this is not just annoying – it is frightening. People feel: “if these people are making mistakes with these things how will they get my surgery, treatment, or care for my mother right?”

As a non-clinical person working in the NHS, I had thought that my impact on people’s health was only ever indirect, but this keynote made me think about how all of our work to improve healthcare can contribute to people’s healing.

Find out about the projects that we’ve been working on in the Patient Safety team here

L to R: Allison Chrestensen, Jonathan Bullock, Catherine Dale and Tiffany Christensen (fellow presenters on co-design).