What If We Gave Patients the Skills and Knowledge to Care for Themselves?

Kavita Bhavan, Associate Professor, University of Texas Southwestern

Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:

  • Describe a self-care program for patients recovering from surgery
  • Discuss the benefits and risks of involving patients in their own treatment

Description: Long wait times in emergency departments was one of the problems. Giving underinsured or uninsured patients the skills (and the option) to care for themselves turned out to be an innovative solution. Dr. Kavita Bhavan, an Infectious Disease Specialist in Texas, shares a story about patients, for example, self-administering IV antibiotics with a coat hanger. The result of such innovations? Almost 28,000 fewer bed days, $40 million in savings over four years, and a 47 percent reduction in 30-day readmission rates. “We have been able to tap into perhaps the most natural resource available, which is human potential,” says Dr. Bhavan.

Discussion Questions:

  • Dr. Bhavan said this program was developed out of the hospital's need for more beds. Do you think it benefits the patients, too? How?
  • What was your reaction to hearing that patients learned to hang IV fluids on a coat hanger? Do you think that creative, inexpensive solutions such as this should be used more often in health care? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think that patients who treated themselves at home had a lower readmission rate than patients treated in the hospital?
  • Dr. Bhavan said that the program was developed for patients who were uninsured or underinsured. Do you think this program should be offered to all patients, regardless of their insurance status? Why or why not?

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