My former place of employment was the third Planetree hospital in the country, after Planetree’s headquarters moved to Griffin (Derby, CT.) We were the first Planetree hospital in Pennsylvania, and that hospital, Windber Medical Center, is now one of the top ten Planetree-designated sites internationally. After having served on the Board of Directors of Planetree for nearly eight years, having written literally dozens of blog posts and articles about Planetree, having taught numerous online seminars for them, contributed a chapter to their latest book, and served on the Planetree Speaker’s Bureau for half a dozen years, I’m back once again with a presentation this Tuesday at the Planetree 2009 conference. It’s called: Take Care of Your Employees and They Will Take Care of Your Patients.
Although I was encouraged to retire from the board in order to give newer members their opportunity to participate, and am no longer a part of the Speaker’s Bureau, with no formal ties to the organization anymore, I want to assure you that my experience, passion, and commitment to humanizing healthcare, transparency, creating a nurturing environment for patients and their families could not be stronger.
Since my transition from formally running hospitals full time, I have immersed myself deeply into the world of helping hospitals through my consulting practice to achieve the patient, employee, and family satisfaction ratings that ensure top scores in HCHAPS which, in turn, will result in increased business, increased revenue, and increased growth for any organization.
Massage, Flower Essences, Spiritual Healing, Drumming, Reiki, Acupuncture, Music, Aroma, Humor, Pet, and Art Therapy; all of these healing practices were formerly referred to as Alternative or Complementary Medicine. They deserve, however, to be referred to as Integrative Medicine. Because, when we integrate these various disciplines with other contemporary healing methodologies, the results can be amazing.
As a hospital CEO, it brought me great satisfaction to introduce all of these treatments to the healing environment of the hospital. Many times they came amid intense resistance from both the medical staff, and some members of leadership. In fact, after nearly 10 years of offering comprehensive exposure to Integrative Medicine, we still had a smattering of nonbelievers. The only thing questionable about these therapies for a healthcare administrator is that the typical insurance companies don’t cover the costs of all of them and cash payments come into play.
The number of patients coming to our facility had tripled through the emergency room alone as did the overall budget of the entire organization during that time period. Those “Forest for the Trees” practical leaders still could not bring themselves to give credit to one of the major contributing factors involved in that surge of the hospital’s popularity. Yes, of course, we also encouraged 24 hour, seven day a week visiting, had guest beds in many patient’s rooms, and served meals to the families on the medical floor where their loved one was a patient. Did all of this combine to the create a healing environment? Of course it did, but Integrative Medicine was the heart and soul of the difference.
Their skepticism seems to fit into the cycle of questioning the validity of wellness and prevention, two comprehensively established methodologies for improving general health and well-being, proven over centuries of unofficial clinical trials. Wellness and Prevention works, but because the insurance companies have not yet fully embraced these philosophies, then some still say that they are not valid. Treating sickness can be as comprehensive as ensuring wellness. For whatever reason, some of our medical and administrative leaders often confuse reimbursements with healing, and forget to add new patients and additional income from related disciplines like PT and OT to the equation.
As a nonmedical, nonscientist, it was easy for me to understand why the various integrative arts worked so well for our patients and their families. From the old song, “All You Need is Love,” you could easily enjoy the looks on the faces of those patients and family members who used these treatments to receive sorely needed relief from whatever pain or loneliness they were experiencing. It doesn’t matter if you’re eighty minutes or eighty years old; touch, nurturing, and love all remain critical in our lives. Have you seen the statistics on how much better people do with pets than without, or how many babies died in orphanages due to the “failure to thrive?”
None of these ancient arts were created because the scientific method produced FDA approved results in trials of 200,000 or more. They evolved into centuries old healing arts because they provided relief and help in a time when leeches, bleedings, and a lack of hand washing were the accepted medical treatments. The tribal shaman, medicine man, healers, and other spiritual leaders all knew what the subtle and not so subtle impact of their work meant to their fellow human beings.
We have casually observed the use of these healing modalities on patients who have experienced restored feelings to otherwise numb feet.
We have seen them relieved from debilitating back pain, healed from hopeless wounds, saved from surgeries due to the opening of blocked intestines through acupuncture. We have observed psychological breakthroughs from drumming that had never been reached by traditional therapy. Truthfully, I didn’t care exactly what made our patients better, just that they were better, and the results were dramatic, with an infection rate of 1% or less, a 3.4 day length of stay, a low readmission rate, and the lowest mortality rate for adjusted morbidity in the region.
Remember, “All You Need is Love.”