Providence Care’s Clinical Lead of Specialized Geriatrics Dr. Chris Frank started in 1993 working part-time at the day hospital and now more than twenty years later, he’s the chair of the Medical Advisory Committee. We spoke to Chris about his work here, his thoughts on Polypharmacy, improving patient quality life and of course the new hospital. Read some of his unique perspective in this edition of “Meet the Doctor”
You’ve said “I love the connections to history that I get working with older people.” What else do you love about your role here at Providence Care?
I think a very classic thing people have said is very complex medical issues mixed with complex social issues need really need good communication skills and a good ability to work in teams to supervise good care.
What do you enjoy about working with staff at Providence Care?
I think it’s that satisfaction of when you work together in problems that you couldn’t work as an individual clinician. Even if you don’t get a good outcome, you get a good outcome that is the best you can do in the circumstances.
I read your piece in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about your work on Polypharmacy and De-prescribing. Tell me about that and do you feel the Canadian Choose Wisely Campaign has been effective?
I think it’s still very much evolving. In fact, I was in Toronto three weekends ago giving a talk on Choosing Wisely and long-term care and most people were familiar with it but most people hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at it or formally considering how they would fit it into their practices.
And why do you think this is important?
In part because I’m Scottish and I think we waste a lot of money on healthcare. And A) this system is not sustainable which will affect future patients as well as current ones. And B) when they receive treatments or investigations that are not necessary, they are obviously at risk of not only illness but unnecessary cost and unnecessary distress. So I think sometimes we can provide better care by doing less.
Tell me about the Plant Project of getting a plant in every patient room…
That came from reading a book I think everyone in healthcare should read. It’s called Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It talks about the way we provide care for people. We obviously pride ourselves on compassionate care but anything we can do to try to make the environment as non-medical and personal as possible. This concept was to give somebody something to care for that is living. It gives people a little bit more purpose. As with a younger person if they don’t have work they sometimes will have more trouble in life. I think with many patients in hospitals they are often in therapy or lying around. I think the responsibility can be of help. That’s where we got the concept from and obviously we have therapy dogs, etc, but we don’t have any cats living on the ward or things that a nursing home would have. I figure the more living things in a room the better.
The Ted Talks at St. Mary’s of Lake sound very interesting…
It dates back to early fall, late summer and that was kind of that same idea. I thought that our patients had a lot to offer whether they are past patients or present patients and I thought it would be really helpful for some of the patients to see someone similar to them get up and share their stories, expertise and passions. It’s hard to find people to talk but I am hoping to see it grow.
Another thing we are trying to do is get an artist in residence program going in collaboration with the foundation. That would mean there would be somebody who is working with patients in groups or an artist from the community coming in and working part-time at St. Mary’s to allow people to express themselves via a variety of different type of art; visual, photographic, music and poetry, etc.
A lot of our projects are small but sometimes a bunch of small things can make a bit of a difference.
How do you feel about social media and its effect on the healthcare landscape?
I was very impressed with it actually. I was certainly not an early adopter but I find it is useful. For example, I try to use it to stimulate interest in old people. I’ll try to promote little individual stories about people that might interest people in care as well as sharing little bits that will improve their clinical knowledge for example. I find it’s a good way to stimulate interest and connect with like-minded people in addition to attracting people towards your like mindedness.
I found Twitter very interesting. I am also the main Twitter person for the Canadian Geriatric Society so I’ve made connections through that to people around the world. There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there. Geriatrics is common in the media because people are realizing that the future is now.
What are your feelings towards moving to the new hospital?
I think it will be great! It will be kind of sad moving out of somewhere I’ve been for so long but I think it will be great moving into a new space. I am hoping that along with a new space come lots of really new ideas. It will be perfect.