I was only half-joking to my table mates as I sat down to start a day-long meeting. In the centre of the table was a plastic bin full of coloured sticky notes and marking pens. And the sight really did give me a warm feeling.
Sticky notes and marking pens mean that audience participation is planned. Usually, participants are invited to write comments and contributions on the notes, then post them on a flipchart where they form the basis of, well, just about any kind of planning work. They also usually indicate that there will be discussion and debate. That's fun. (Also, occasionally, productive.)
But most importantly, their presence means that someone prepared for this meeting. Somebody thought about what needed to be accomplished and how the attendees could be active participants. Somebody wanted to hear our opinions.
Somebody cared about the day's outcome.
That's the real reason I was excited; the sticky notes were just an indicator. An epiphenomenon.
The meeting's closing speaker related a story that linked my sticky note experience to my daily clinical work. She told us about a man who had gone through 2 joint replacement surgeries. At the first surgery, he remembered that the OR staff had been laughing and joking when he entered the room and he felt that they weren't paying attention to him.
Several years later, at the time of his second operation, the surgical safety checklist had been used. Staff all stopped what they were doing and focussed on hearing the plan for his surgery. The man related that he felt everyone really cared about what happened to him that day.
Completion of the surgical safety checklist didn't guarantee a better outcome for him. But he (rightly) interpreted its use as an indicator that someone had put effort into planning for his safe care.
What other indicators - positive or negative - are patients reading as they traverse the healthcare system?