November 14, 2011—The winner of the 2011 MITSS HOPE Award is the NEXT STEP Program at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Emergency Department in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The HOPE Award Honors Outstanding People Everywhere who have furthered the MITSS mission of Supporting Healing and Restoring Hope to patients, and families, and clinicians who have been impacted by adverse medical events. RL Solutions’ President and CEO, Sanjay Malaviya, presented the award at the MITSS 10th Annual Dinner and Fundraiser held at the Westin Copley Place, Boston, on Tuesday, November 1st. RL Solutions has become an annual sponsor of this prestigious honor, having sponsored the last three awards.
Dr. Michael Mikhail of the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital was on hand to accept the 2011 Award. He was accompanied to the MITSS event by Claran Quinn, the NEXT STEP Program administrator.
The NEXT STEP Program is a volunteer program started by Dr. Mikhail in 2006 in an effort to help answer questions that remain after unexpected or adverse events occur in the Emergency Department. The NEXT STEP team is designed to provide an opportunity for patients and their families to express their unanswered questions in a compassionate and caring environment following a sudden and unexpected clinical event. The goal of the program is to provide answers that may bring peace during a time of uncertainty by reviewing and discussing clinical information and assisting patients and family members with understanding of what happened during their hospital visit. The NEXT STEP Program also allows providers to be proactive in addressing a family’s questions and concerns.
One powerful example of the program at work is a recent event at St. Joseph Mercy when a patient was harmed due to an inappropriate medication dosage. This excess dosage may have contributed to the patient’s death. The NEXT STEP Program was used to disclose the error to the patient’s family and also to apologize. The team met with the family several times and was able to answer their questions about how the error occurred and the system that was put in place to prevent future events. These meetings allowed the Emergency Department staff to convey their sincere regret about the event and gave the family an opportunity for their anger and concerns to be heard.
As is customary with past HOPE Award winners, we asked Dr. Mikhail and Ms. Quinn to reflect on their team’s major recognition:
MITSS: What are your personal reflections on winning the 2011 HOPE Award? How did the team feel?
Dr. Mikhail: Today, we shared this award with our Next Step Committee, and they were thrilled and somewhat surprised by this recognition. As was true for me, they were not aware of your national organization and thought that we were going it alone in our small corner in Ann Arbor, trying to make a small difference.
I am personally humbled and yet inspired by the stories and people like yourself who make it their life's passion to help others affected in such a profound way when a medical tragedy does occur.
I recognize there is so much more that needs to be done in this area, and this gives us an opportunity to reach farther and help more patients and families, beyond just the confines of the emergency department. I also now better appreciate that we need to also develop similar opportunities for providers to be cared for as well.
MITSS: Were you surprised? Why?
Dr. Mikhail: Very much surprised and certainly never expecting that our activity would be so recognized. It was something we felt critically necessary to help our patients and families and not something special or deserving.
MITSS: What is the most important thing you have learned along your journey?
Dr. Mikhail: That caring—actively reaching out to show you care—is the most important thing we can do. While we continue to improve our processes and systems of care and safety, we must not forget that we cannot necessarily control the outcome. With each of these tragic situations, there are people who are hurting and need our time and compassion as caregivers.
Ms. Quinn: As the initial contact and coordinator of our SJMHS NEXT STEP Program, I am so very proud of this wonderful recognition award, but I would like to add that one of the fundamental ingredients to the success of the SJMHS "NEXT STEP Program" is the steadfast dedication and commitment that our SJMHS Emergency Department, Physician Leadership & Nursing Leadership, never fail to provide. Without this allegiance, the Program would not be successful.
MITSS: Where to you see your program going in the near/distant future?
Dr. Mikhail: Expanding to include a program for providers and further collaboration within the hospital to other clinical areas and beyond our current hospital to other institutions that we are actively engaged in.
MITSS: Do you have any specific plans for the $5,000 cash prize?
Dr. Mikhail: Not yet, but this will allow us to reach farther and wider, to get our program and message out there, and perhaps we can provide some small tokens to help families. We are also considering creating a more receptive environment for families to hear difficult news. A significant portion will likely go to education and expansion of the program and creating a parallel program for providers.