Safe Patient Project teams up with Maine activist Kathy Day

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Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project works with a network of dedicated activists across the country to advocate for patient safety. One of those activists is Kathy Day, a retired nurse in Bangor, Maine who’s been a strong voice for patient safety ever since her father died of hospital acquired MRSA in early 2009. Among many things, she’s worked on state legislation to improve tracking and reporting of hospital infections, does interviews for the media and blogs about her work along the way. That’s why I was eager to join Kathy for a series of patient safety events in her home state of Maine.

Maine is hosting important conversations on improving patient care

Known for its rugged coastline, mountains, forests and lobsters, Maine has a population of 1.3 million, making it the least densely populated state in New England. But the events that Kathy and I attended in Augusta, Maine, were filled to the max with people ready to have important discussions about improving patient care.

On Monday, we went to a health care town hall meeting led by Consumer Reports Health Medical Director, Dr. John Santa, sponsored by Maine Quality Counts, a statewide coalition working to improve health care quality, access, and contain health care costs. The town hall meeting was webcasted in six other locations across Maine. Dr. Santa presented on Consumer Reports’ Choosing Wisely campaign, which provides resources for consumers and physicians to engage in conversations about the overuse or misuse of medical tests and procedures that provide little benefit and in some cases harm. Consumers need tools to help them avoid unnecessary medical care. Use these 5 questions to ask your doctor before you get any test, treatment, or procedure. And here’s a great Choosing Wisely guide on how to use antibiotics to help you and your loved ones avoid drug resistance.

The next day, Kathy and I went “backstage” for a Maine Quality Counts webinar on health care price transparency with Rosemary Gibson, a national leader on health care and author of several books, including The Treatment Trap and Medicare Meltdown. Another speaker was Karynlee Harrington with Maine Quality Forum, the State organization responsible for the analysis of health quality data and promotion of health quality initiatives. Health care price transparency is an issue in Maine and beyond. A recently released 2014 “Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws” gives 45 states a failing grade for providing inadequate health care price information to consumers. Maine is one of only two states to achieve a “B” grade this year, the highest awarded. According to Harrington, Maine Quality Forum is working to make cost and quality data more usable and consumer friendly. Rosemary stated that consumers need information on cost and quality, as well as market clout to reduce health care costs. You can view the webinar presentation slides here.

After the webinar, we went down the hall to hear Rosemary Gibson’s talk on her book Medicare Meltdown to a group of around 60 seniors with Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging. All eyes were on Rosemary as she talked about the disturbing issue of Medicare fraud and the need to follow where Medicare dollars are spent. Rosemary gave a shout out to ProPublica for its investigative coverage on fraud in Medicare Part D, as well as ProPublica’s Prescriber Checkup tool to search for doctors and or other health providers by name and see the drugs they have prescribed. Rosemary shared an example of a family doctor in Maine with a higher than national average rate of prescribing anti-psychotic drugs.

Then the book club turned into a group discussion of how consumers can advocate for health care system change. Kathy Day shared some amazing tips for engaging at the personal, community, and state/federal level. I gave an impromptu speech on the work of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project and the power of using personal stories in getting media attention for health care safety issues.

Final day: Kathy Day receives Patient Partnership Award at 2014 Maine Quality Counts conference

My trip ended with a full day at the Maine Quality Counts annual conference on health care quality improvement which had over 700 participants from across the state and nationally. We heard from some excellent speakers throughout the day, but the highlight was when Kathy Day received the Maine Quality Counts Patient Partnership Award for her patient advocacy (which she blogged about here). In her speech, she shared that the first time she attended a Maine Quality Counts conference she didn’t know anyone in the room. But after years of advocating for patients in Maine, she knew lots of familiar faces. All of her work is because of her father, who died from MRSA, and wanting to help save lives. In one moment during her speech Kathy expressed gratitude for Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project supporting her advocacy. Kathy on stage was an unforgettable moment to witness. The local Bangor Daily News highlighted Kathy’s award along with a glowing photo of her. We look forward to keeping up with Kathy’s success!

If you live in Maine, we encourage you to connect with Kathy, a good-hearted, passionate advocate for patient safety. You can leave a comment on her blog or ask us to connect you. Heck, even if you don’t live in Maine, Kathy will probably have some good ideas for you.