Bringing the Person out of the Patient (pt. I)

I’ve been meaning to write this for a bit but moving into that big beautiful building has been the focal point of my professional life.  On that move: *standing ovation to all*!  We crushed that.

I know there have been many emails to that effect thus making this blog post all late and wrong but wow that was a heck of a thing to be a part of.  Many moons ago, as I sat in Hayes hall listening to Mr. Sloan during orientation, could I have imagined the Sibley we have now. I can tell you the amount of lives impacted in the New Sibley will make all of those who had a hand in its creation proud.  Many thanks to all involved.  

But. As great as it is, it's only a space, and with all respect it's the people who fill the space and provide the care that make it (the New) Sibley.

Sibley was at its finest during the move to the New Tower and that move was a special thing to be a part of.  The fact that so many employees basically bailed on their families for 4-5 days to help make sure patients, the people taking care of patients and the equipment needed to do so were moved safely and successfully showed that.


Through all the moving of things there was a constant focus on people.  People, both employees and patients are what this blog post is about because 'employee' and 'patient' are just titles we just carry for a little while, and we should be able to connect with each other on levels beyond our temporary titles.

As incredible as the move and all the things leading up to the move was, I’m actually writing this blog post to walk you through the process of my favorite *bias disclosed* part of the New Tower.  They’re called About Me Boards and they’re in EVERY FLIPPING ROOM!  That is sort of the end of the journey so we’re going to pump the brakes and back up to the beginning of this tale.  I’m going to tell the tale (and it's a 2 parter so if you hate cliff hangers, then best to bail now).


Being as this tale was born in the Innovation Hub, and this Internet space belongs to them and is reserved for Design, I'm going to tell the story in the Hub’s format: listen, imagine, do. Frankie would be quick to remind that the ‘tell’-explaining the work- is also crucial but I'm saying that 2 blog posts count as my ‘tell’.


‘About Me Boards’’ started with Dr. Ramunno (pictured showing his skillz on the hoverboard) and a great group of docs, nurses and some execs listening to patients talk about the experiences they had at Sibley.


To be brutally honest, it was a tough day with so much to process and so much to hear from people for whom we missed opportunities to provide excellent care. But these being empathy interviews, we smiled and listened, and while we listened we took away themes.  One of those themes was one thing that everybody already knows but that we rarely know how to address—that patients want to be seen as people. They don't want to have to retell their story to every new person they meet. So we sought a way to help get patients seen as people.


We thought of other places where they do this and came up with hotels which, don't roll your eyes, because I'm with you—I think the hospital is very different than a hotel and we shouldn't try to do all aspects of what they do. However, somebody noted how when you check into some of these fancy-pants hotels they know who you are before you even speak up, so we wondered how might we get some of the patients information shared without them having to say the same things over and over again.

Our pie-in-the-sky dream was some sort of screen above the patient's bed driven by a tablet they would have in their hands. The screen would show what the patient wanted to be called and one or two more tidbits of info that reminded everyone who came into the room that there was much more to the person in the bed than their diagnoses. The patient would be empowered to control the information on the screen, but we knew we had to start with something simple.  


Our prototype for this model involved yours truly interviewing patients, then sprinting down to the Hub to type their responses up on a PowerPoint slide with some flashy clipart and printing it large and in color.  Then I’d hightail it back up to the room and show the patient what I’d made for them, and with their blessing, tape it above the head of their bed.

Patients loved to be given something that was about them.  One lady in particular brought her About Me from 4E to the Ren, back to 4E and back to the Ren again.  Having them placed above the head of the bed meant that it was very hard for anybody in the room to address the patient and NOT see the About Me Board. The problem here was scale.  Getting this substantial workflow hardwired into somebody’s already busy day was challenging.  I was the main person doing them, and while I loved the conversation, connection, and stories I heard, my favorite part was whenever I would hear a conversation other staff members had with a patient because of their About Me Board connection and most of all when I would hear them sharing their own.  As much as those stories would inspire me, I could not do an About Me Board for every patient.

The stories I heard and the conversations patients had with some of our staff made it easy to see that there was value in this.  Maybe not immediately in HCAHPs or some other measurable outcome, but in connecting people to their health care team in times of need.  I have a few HIPPA friendly examples I've shared of the early prototypes.  I’ve rambled enough for now, but next time I’ll share how we got to where we are now, and how I failed a whole bunch before getting it right.

Same as usual with a blog please leave some feedback (email me at, thanks for reading and for all you do for Sibley.