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The Patient's Voice in Action

Posted By Administration, Friday, October 28, 2016

If you are involved in patient safety, you’ve probably heard your share of bad news.
This is a good news story.

by Patricia McTiernan, MS

Marian Hoy attended the 2016 NPSF
Congress on a patient scholarship and
"the lightbulbs just went off.”


In January of 2014, Marian Hoy, then 66 years old, became ill with what she thought might be the flu. “I felt bad for three days,” she recalls. “There were red flags that it wasn’t just the flu, but I didn’t recognize them.”

A former Dallas police officer and police trainer, Ms. Hoy lives in a small town outside of Austin, Texas. Her illness led her to become so disoriented that she called the town’s chief of police and asked him to bring her a soft drink. “I know the police chief,” she says, “but I never would have called him for that had I not been suffering confusion.”


When she realized the trouble she was in, she called the EMTs and was taken in the middle of the night to the hospital that she chose, Seton Southwest, part of Ascension Healthcare. Doctors there discovered that scar tissue from a long-ago surgery had surrounded Ms. Hoy’s small intestine and stopped her system. She underwent surgery to repair the problem, and in the days afterward she experienced complications that included sepsis and pneumonia.

“Everything was going south” for a time, she recalls now. “I would say to the doctor, ‘am I in danger?’ because I couldn’t say the words, ‘am I going to die?’ And he would say, ‘No, Ms. Hoy, you are not in danger.’


“In other words," she says, "he thoughtfully used my own words, so as not to frighten me.”


If you’ve read this far you are probably thinking, “Wasn’t this supposed to be a good news story?” Indeed, Marian Hoy spent three weeks in the hospital, and she recovered very well. But that’s not the only good news. When she tells her story, it’s all about her experience of care.

“They treated me like I was the only patient they had,” she says. “They gave me very individual care. When I called for a nurse, they were there in minutes. My doctors, surgeons, internseverybody knew my labs over the 24-hour period, but they came to my bedside to talk to me to see if I could put together a declarative sentence and understand their questions, something I was unable to do when I was admitted. And they spoke to me with language I could understand.”

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Patient Experience Matters

Patient experience of care has been defined as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.” A 2013 study found “patient experience is positively associated with clinical effectiveness and patient safety,” and supports the use of patient experience as a measure of quality.

Ms. Hoy’s experience puts a face to that research. Grateful for the care she had received, she wrote a letter of thanks. She was subsequently recruited to join Ascension’s system-wide Patient and Family Engagement Steering Committee. Through her work with Ascension, Ms. Hoy became aware of the NPSF Patient Safety Congress and was awarded a patient scholarship to attend the 2016 meeting.


“When I went to Arizona for the NPSF Congress, I had no idea what to expect,” she says now. “I was extremely naïve about safety in hospitals. I don’t know that a lot of patients understand the gravity of patient safety issues. The lightbulbs just went off.”

As a former law enforcement officer, Ms. Hoy was particularly interested in issues discussed during a breakout session on workplace violence in health care, which is on the rise. “Until we include an in-depth discussion of how today’s violence can and does impact the hospital setting, I don’t think we’ve completed the conversation on safety,” she says.

Today, Ms. Hoy serves on three patient advisory boards within the Ascension system. She is intent on sharing her experience because, “they saved my life, and there is no way one can repay that debt.”

She wants people to know about it. But she is also adamant about urging others to speak up and bring an advocate with them if they can when they visit the doctor or hospital.

“Participate in your own illness, ask questions,” she says. “If your doctor doesn’t want to answer questions, find another doctor. This a conversation about your health.”

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Do your health care practitioners make it easy for you to be engaged in your care? Comment on this post below. Note: to post a comment you must be logged in. Register or log in.

Patricia McTiernan, MS, is editor of the P.S. Blog. Contact her at

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Tags:  2016 NPSF Congress  patient advocate  Voice of the Patient 

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