Warning! OUTDATED BROWSER DETECTED!   Please update your browser immediately for a better experience on this website. Learn More
  • Innovation Hub Adds Heart to the Patient Experience

    A breast cancer project at Johns Hopkins Innovation Hub is helping doctors see treatment through their patients’ eyes. By Elizabeth Gardner

    August 1, 2017

    A stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis turned Robin Strickland’s world inside out, as the 44-year-old mother of a toddler faced the full barrage of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. “I was shocked, scared and numb,” she said.

    To help during this trying time, her Sibley treatment team presented her with a “love box,” or Breast Cancer Toolkit, containing a personalized letter along with lists of resources, contact information for people who could answer her many questions, recipes for her family to use, a journal to keep track of her thoughts during treatment, spa gift certificates and an iPod Shuffle pre-loaded with playlists for various tastes, settings and moods.

    “When they presented me with the love box, I felt cared for,” Strickland said. “It truly warmed my heart.”

    The love box is one of the many projects developed at the Johns Hopkins Innovation Hub dedicated to improving patient care, empowering and engaging staff, and improving clinical care. The Hub is a 5,000 square-foot open innovation space in the center of Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital, a 200-bed community hospital that is part of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

    The Hub is staffed by a team of designers, engineers, technologists and project managers who coach internal staff-led projects. Other examples include a tranquility room for hospital staff that includes relaxing music, aromatherapy and celestial images.

    Through the Patient’s Eyes

    Physician input is critical to improving the patient experience. Pouneh Razavi, MD, director of breast imaging at Sibley Memorial Hospital, participated in developing the love box that is part of a larger effort called The Dignity Project, dedicated to elevating the patient care experience to a higher level.

    “We want our patients to maintain their dignity and not feel lost in the shuffle,” Dr. Razavi said.

    Members of the Dignity Project team — clinicians, managers and the vice president of operations — engage in a process called Listen, Imagine, Do, a human-centered design process that creates a supportive environment for brainstorming, discussion and prototyping.

    Team members listen to feedback from patients, physicians and other hospital staff to inspire new ideas that are quickly realized and tested at Sibley. For example, the love box began with Sibley staff getting feedback from patients and identifying common motifs. Interview quotes and observations were shared via written Post-it notes, which were organized in categories and themes. The group then translated that information into a How We Might statement to flip the problem into a brainstorming platform. The resulting love box grew from feedback about patients’ desire to feel loved, cared for and inspired during cancer treatment.

    Dr. Razavi talked to dozens of patients and soon began seeing treatment through their eyes. She learned, for example, that a patient waiting for a mammogram is not always just sitting there. She may be reliving her ordeal with breast cancer, whether it was a year or a decade ago. “She becomes the cancer patient all over again,” Dr. Razavi said.

    For team members seeking to address patient concerns, no idea was too outlandish. “We even toyed with the idea of bringing in puppies,” Dr. Razavi said, though ultimately the team decided that music would be equally calming and more manageable.

    The first 10 love boxes were so successful that Sibley plans to continue the project.

    The Listen, Imagine, Do method was unlike anything Dr. Razavi had experienced in her medical training.

    “My life is shades of gray and white . . . very detail oriented and regimented, so when we first started throwing out ideas on Post-it notes, I had little faith that it was going to work,” Dr. Razavi said. “I kept thinking, ‘I could be reading mammograms right now!’”

    The experience has also changed how Dr. Razavi approaches her practice in fundamental ways. For example, she now goes out of her way to make sure a patient’s spouse has a chance to ask questions during office visits, as she is more aware that spouses must take time off work to come to the appointment and are signaling their commitment to the treatment. And when she must deliver news of an unfavorable pathology result over the phone, she first invites the patient to bring a spouse or another support person to join the conversation.

    “People need someone to help them process the information, as they are getting hit with news that no one is ready to handle,” Dr. Razavai said.