October is Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values. For Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana and Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, it is a part of their everyday mission to ensure the families and children are involved in every step of the process when it comes to their health.

There was a time when patient advocacy was a relatively new concept in health care, but Ronald McDonald House Charities has been practicing this care model before it became a philosophy as they recognized a need to better care for families of seriously ill or injured children. CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana, Karin Ogden, and Riley Hospital for Children’s manager for patient- and family-centered care, Kara Casavan, share the importance of patient-centered care and why it should continue to make its way into all health settings.

Patient-centered care involves the patient and their family.

The Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care defines patient- and family-centered care as an approach to the planning, delivery and evaluation of health care that is grounded in mutually beneficial partnerships among health care providers, patients and families. In pediatrics, children are often 100% dependent on their parents and rely on them to share essential information, so patient-centered care involves the family in every health decision regarding their child. Family voices and preferences are just as important as anyone else on the medical staff. Patient-centered care impacts families with something as little as a meal they love or acknowledging a patient’s birthday, all the way to care plans that address what matters most to them.

A strong family presence can encourage better patient outcomes.

In the beginning, patient-centered care was considered a bonus, but now staff work within qualitative and quantitative data to drive best practices to focus on the physical and emotional well-being of the entire family. A 2013 study published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine found parents who slept at a Ronald McDonald House experienced better sleep than those who slept at their child’s bedside in the hospital, which likely allows parents to participate more thoroughly in their child’s care as they are better rested. Research conducted at a Ronald McDonald House in 2013 showed that families who stayed together for at least some portion of their child’s hospitalization believed their presence improved their child’s recovery.

Partnerships are an essential component of patient-centered care.

In order to provide the most comfort as possible, it’s important to work together with hospital partners. As a partner for Riley Hospital for Children, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana provides families from all over the state a place of respite in a comforting environment and ensures the family’s needs are being met. In many cases, if a child is critically ill, they come to Riley Hospital for Children because specialized medical care is often regionalized and unavailable in a family’s local community. Access to care in these cases requires more than an appointment, so ensuring every child has access to quality health care is at the heart of what we do.

How our care model exists in the new Family Rooms at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

In November, one new Ronald McDonald Family Room and one remodeled Ronald McDonald Family Room will open at Riley Hospital for Children pending health conditions in the hospital. The new room inside the new Maternity Tower is completely focused on rest and relaxation to better serve newborn intensive care unit (NICU) families. It will include a hydromassage table and a nap pod, so parents can get quality restorative sleep to be more present, which is an important part of our care model. The remodeled room is focused on providing families with healthy meals, including daily continental breakfasts, hot lunches and grab-and-go food. These rooms represent the core of patient- and family-centered care with the comforts of home, providing families with constant support and the ability to take care of themselves to better care for their child.

Patient-centered care is the cornerstone of everything that is done at both Riley Hospital for Children and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana. By ensuring both the patient and family are being heard, the family feels respected and is more willing to help care for the child. By bringing together families and medical staff, we can encourage greater health outcomes.

Karin Ogden, CEO, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana and Kara Casavan, Project Manager Patient and Family Centered Care, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health

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