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February 4, 2015

New 'passports' help patients navigate their care

Daily Briefing

    To help patients feel more comfortable and in control of their inpatient experience, some hospitals are using documents known as "patient passports" intended to help foster better communication between physicians and patients.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, patients often feel "powerless, intimidated, and frustrated" in hospital settings because doctors do not always take the time to listen to their concerns fully. But studies have linked patient and family involvement in medical decisions to better patient outcomes, fewer readmissions, a more positive patient experience, and a lower risk of medical errors.

    Details of patient passport

    The patient passport covers basic patient data, including medical records. It also allows patients to write in additional information, such as how they deal with certain health conditions, what type of activities they may need help with, and any requests they may have after discharge.

    Cancer patient Natalie Augustin, who chairs a patient and family advisory group at Stamford Hospital, says the passports offer a way for patients to feel more in control and outline their personal preferences. For instance, she says she was able to specify particular preferences during her treatment, such as requesting that clinicians speak directly with her and specify the reasons behind certain treatments she was receiving.

    Susan Frampton, president of Planetree, a not-for-profit hospital membership organization focused on patient-centered care, says, the goal of the passport "is to even the playing field and improve the quality of conversations that lead to deeper and more trusting relationships between providers and patients."

    Planetree offers a passport that was made in collaboration with the National Quality Forum and can be customized for specific patient groups, like cancer patients or palliative care patients. The passport was model on one used at the Mattel Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.

    According to the Mattel Parent Advisory Council, children often are taken for treatment outside the pediatric ward, and outside doctors can be blind to conditions that are not immediately visible, like metabolic issues or weak immune systems. To avoid problems, Mattel physicians and patients' families can work jointly to fill out the passport and denote various "sensitivities and considerations" that future physicians may not understand.

    Involving patients in shift handoffs may reduce errors

    Gitanjli Arora, assistant clinical professor and chair of the Patient and Family Centered Care Committee at Mattel, says the passport "allows parents to engage more fully in their child's care and be an equal partner with the provider."

    Derby, Connecticut-based Griffin Hospital has also begun a similar program for patients interested in planning issues like end-of-life care. Todd Liu, VP of accountable care and general counsel at Griffin, says, "We want patient preferences to be honored all the time to the extent possible, and for our team to know who they are as a person" (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 2/2).

    The takeaway Hospitals are turning to "patient passports" as valuable ways of keeping patients involved in their care. But it takes more than passports to optimize patient navigation. See our strategies for building successful patient navigation (and survivorship) programs.

    Five patient experience stories you won't want to miss

    Sharing patient stories can be a simple, yet powerful way to cultivate caregiver empathy.

    Watch now to hear Melissa Thomason, a patient and family advisor at Vidant Health, as she shares her life-changing experience. And check out four other videos on outstanding patient experience initiatives, including one that helped UCLA achieve a 60% increase in satisfaction scores.


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