The video is captivating.
An older gentleman dressed in a teal Polo shirt and blue jeans tightens the grip on his walker and shuffles across the floor, barely moving his bare feet an inch at a time. Parkinson’s has gotten the better of his motor skills.
Approaching a staircase, he alternates between bracing himself against the wall and pushing his walker slightly forward. His feet come to the edge of a landing; a caregiver carefully takes the walker away.
Then something truly amazing happens. He wobbles forward and, without hesitation, confidently descends two flights of stairs. As he pivots for the return climb, he motions for whomever is holding the camera to stand aside.
If you had only seen these 30 seconds of the video, you never would have known that this man has a debilitating neurological disorder.
The next scene is even cooler, though. We see the man shuffling along with his walker until he happens upon a tarp in a living room that is painted with a 3-D image of a staircase. As he steps on it, the man lifts his walker off the ground and strides forward until the tarp ends a handful of steps later.
I don’t pretend to know all of the science behind what is going on, but the mere illusion of stairs enables this man to move without the aid of his walker, creating a tremendous sense of freedom.
“The starting point is listening to patients,” says Bastiaan Bloem, M.D., professor and medical director, Nijmegen Parkinson Center, Department of Neurology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands. “Patients are telling us what they can do.”
It’s a novel idea — listen to patients and make them part of the care team. Bloem’s passion for this transformative way of delivering care comes through in spades. He’s advancing the concept through ParkinsonNet, which started in the Netherlands, but recently has expanded to Kaiser Permanente and the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In the Netherlands, ParkinsonNet has trained several thousand medical and allied health professionals and built collaborative care teams for patients. Regular readers of my blog in H&HN Daily will remember that I met Bloem last month during a media tour of the Netherlands. The Dutch government had invited a handful of reporters to meet innovators who are reshaping various industries in advance of King Willem-Alexander’s visit to the United States early this month.
When we met with Bloem, he explained how this idea of truly putting patients at the center has reshaped their notion of the disease and care delivery. Beyond the collaborative care teams and listening to patients, ParkinsonNet embraces several social media-like concepts that give patients the ability to connect with and review health professionals. There are also chat functions where Bloem and health professionals can instantaneously spread clinical information and share best practices.
Bloem firmly believes that this kind of approach can be modeled for other chronic conditions. In fact, some of his colleagues are exploring ways to modify the approach for COPD.
“The patient is our ultimate guide,” he says.
Shouldn’t that always be the case? — Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.