Lifenhanced: FEATURED ARTICLE
Putting Patients First
Jeffrey M. Brandt, CPO, CEO and founder of Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics, always had a vision to create “best practices” across the organization. Since the company was formed in 2004, Brandt and his growing staff have always strived to do right by the patient—at least what the company thought was right for the patient. In early 2017, that vision started to become a reality with the formation of Ability’s Patient Advisory Council (PAC).
The impetus behind the company and its PAC philosophy is simple: Ability wants every patient who visits any of its locations in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Maryland to have the best possible care experience. The PAC is comprised of current patients, caregivers, and parents who, along with Ability’s practitioners, evaluated and honed the organization’s “best practices”, which serve as the foundation for its Clinical Processes.
Ability is a patient-centric company committed to delivering the highest standard of care, Brandt says. Those who come to Ability P&O for care have already had their share of pain, misfortune, and anxiety, and Ability does not want to contribute to it. “We want to go to bat for our patients and be sure we are engaging them in the care process,” he says. “We’re very transparent, and we want our patients to hold us accountable.”
Beginning this spring, all patients will receive a Clinical Process Brochure, a customized map, that will help them, along with guidance from their practitioner, become more familiar with each of the steps in Ability’s clinical care process—evaluation, authorization, manufacturing, fitting, and follow-up as needed, as well as other patient incentives. Since no two patients are alike and the road to care for each one will be different, patients may experience every step in the process or just a few, Brandt says. “The clinical process map is designed to demonstrate the thoroughness of our process,” he says.
Ability hopes to engage its patients in their care, and the PAC can be a helpful part of that process. That’s where Ed Nathan comes in. As a patient and patient advocate for Ability, he will be the first to explain that the needs of a person experiencing amputation for the first time will be unique to them, and that every person must be his or her own best advocate. Nathan was 55 years old when he underwent a transtibial amputation on his right leg in 2010, secondary to CharcotMarie-Tooth disease. He describes his recovery as lengthy and difficult.
Nathan retired from a 30-plus year career in training management and leadership development in 2014. He was recruited by Ability to create, organize, and lead the PAC, which typically meets three to four times a year. “Jeff, Kathleen and I had an opportunity to talk, and they had a vision for creating a PAC for some time, but did not have someone they felt could lead it, and my skillset helped to make that connection.”
The feedback generated at PAC meetings is infused into Ability’s practice model to help support and drive the care the company provides to its patients to better meet their expectations, Nathan said. The PAC consists of Ability patients and their caregivers as well as Ability practitioners and members of the Ability management team.
Nathan says Ability has developed the best practices in consultation with the PAC. “I believe it has more of a patient focus than simply a practitioner focus,” he says. “This should provide a more successful engagement between the client and the company.” O&P care can be technical, and some of the technical jargon and the process required to create custom devices can be intimidating for new and even experienced clients, Nathan says. “The revised best practices have been developed keeping in mind the need for increased patient engagement and understanding of the process they are a part of.”
Nathan will say that being actively involved with his prosthetist for his care is paramount. “Simply put, if the device is uncomfortable or unwearable for me, I can’t use it,” he says. “And if I can’t use it, I can’t be mobile and participate in the everyday activities that make life so rich and rewarding. I would not have been able to go back to work for another four years as a high-level professional after losing my leg had my prosthesis been less than perfect.”
Building a patient/practitioner partnership is important. “This is also why when a client builds a relationship with a practitioner, should that practitioner leave or retire, the client often struggles in trying to find another prosthetist to work with and with whom they can build the same level of trust,” Nathan says.
This testament also led to one of the PAC’s early successes. “In one of our very first meetings, the relationship between client and practitioner came up,” Nathan says. “Several of our members mentioned their struggle in finding a new prosthetist when they were no longer able to work with their current prosthetist.”
Nathan says it led to a discussion and change of practice for Ability so that, whenever possible, clients will get to work with at least two practitioners at their facility: a primary and a secondary, so that if the primary prosthetist should move to another location or retire, the client already has a relationship and a connection with the second practitioner at that location. “This should help make it an easier transition for the client,” he says.
Julie McCulley, MPO, MS, CPO, ATC/L, was invited to attend a PAC meeting while she was a resident practitioner. “On the way to the meeting, I thought ‘how better to improve than by eliciting the advice and perspective of our patients,’” she says. “I learned valuable feedback regarding their care during these meetings.”
McCulley started her career as a personal trainer, and she became interested in O&P when she was treating a police officer who experienced an amputation following a car accident. She discovered firsthand how important a practitioner/patient relationship was for her and the officer. “It is important that the patient fully understands their treatment and participates in the process so that we are able to work as a team to attain their short- and long-term goals,” she says. “This is the best way to obtain appropriate outcomes so our patients can regain mobility and function.”
McCulley says Ability’s best practices and the PAC will serve its patients in one simple way: by listening. “There are so many times I get feedback from patients like ‘thank you for listening,’ or ‘thank you for taking so much time with me,’ or ‘this is so much better than most medical appointments I’ve been to,’ or ‘wow, everyone here is so nice.’ The group of people that compose Ability have been selected because we share the goal of commitment to excellence by putting the patient’s needs first.”