Game changer

September 21st, 2017

Sept. 19, 2017 — A game invented by two JPS physicians is changing the way doctors and nurses at JPS communicate with patients, potentially affecting both quality of care and patients’ perception of it.

Dr. Anthony Zepeda with the first patient to complete his game

Dr. Anthony Zepeda with the first patient to complete his game, Circulate, winning her a prize bag including items from the JPS Foundation.

Called Circulate, the bingo-style game features 25 boxes, each filled with a task such as, “Tell your doctor about your hobby,” and, “Find out what is your case manager’s favorite animal.” Others are more clinical, such as, “Explain your diagnosis to your doctor,” designed to make sure patients are active participants in their care — hard to do without understanding your illness. Patients who collect a caregiver’s initials in all 25 boxes win prizes provided by the JPS Foundation.

“It is brilliant,” said Lara Burnside, vice president and chief patient experience officer at JPS. Burnside said she plans to expand use of Circulate at JPS after pilots now underway on two units, Progressive Care (E3) and Respiratory/Pulmonary (T11).

Drs. Anthony and Julia Zepeda came up with Circulate over dinner one night as they talked about the challenges inherent in doctor-patient communication. Doctors need to see patients as more than a diagnosis. Patients need to see their doctors as more than white coats with advanced degrees. Hence, Circulate prompts conversations that reveal what’s underneath.

For patients who might feel intimidated, there’s a question sure to bring physicians closer to earth: Ask your doctor what their first job was. “That’s a leveler,” said Zepeda, who once worked as a towel boy.

Dr. Bhavik Patel’s first job also sparks lively conversation. Once a roller-skating car hop at a Sonic restaurant, he has gleaned clinical information by sharing this personal detail. After turning the question back on one patient, he learned that the man had worked in aircraft manufacturing, “which could be relevant to his disease.”

That patient, hospitalized with worsening lung disease, said the game also changed the way he felt about his nurse the night before. Having always thought of nursing as a female profession, the patient had mixed feelings about this male nurse. So on his Circulate board, he zeroed in on Row 4,: “Ask your nurse what made them want to be a nurse.” The nurse told of a lengthy stay in an ICU, where the nursing care inspired him — a response that washed skepticism away.

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