Catherine's cover image
Catherine

Catherine CROCK AM

Year of Award: 2009 Award State: Victoria Health And Medicine > General
The Jack Brockhoff Foundation Churchill Fellowship to investigate the benefits of family involvement in effective healthcare by examining patient and family centred care models - USA, Canada, UK

Every year, despite the best efforts of health professionals, thousands of patients in Australia suffer, and many die, from preventable problems and medical errors. However, when patients and their families are permitted to participate actively in every aspect of healthcare (that is, patient-centred care), and when staff treat each other with respect, many of the problems leading to these detrimental results are avoided. This fact makes patient-centred care and good communication central to a safer culture within the healthcare system.

Catherine explored patient-centred healthcare and its impact on patient safety on her 2009 Churchill Fellowship, visiting hospitals in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

Traditionally, the patient has a passive role at the base of the hospital hierarchy. The alternative approach of patient-centred care engages patients as an integral part of the healthcare team and recognises the expertise they and their families bring. Patients and families can often identify problems and see solutions to them that staff might be too busy to perceive. In the parlance of the profession, ‘patients have a place at the table’.

Patient-centred care demonstrably improves outcomes for everyone involved. For instance, at the Medical College of Georgia there was a sustained drop of over 60 per cent in medication errors when patient-centred care was introduced in 2002.

Another pivotal aspect of Catherine’s Fellowship was her meeting with Dr Lucian Leape at Harvard who stated “the next big challenge for patient safety around the world is how staff treat each other”.

Becoming a Churchill Fellow gave Catherine credibility in the emerging concept of patient-centred care and led to many public speaking and advisory roles in the medical sphere, to government agencies and universities. 

Before being awarded her Fellowship, Catherine had established two organisations, one in 2000 called Hush, focusing on producing highest quality music for use in hospitals to evoke calmness and optimism, and the other in 2009, a National patient-centred care body, called The Australian Institute for Patient and Family Centred Care (AIPFCC).

The two organisations grew substantially and in 2016 they merged into one not-for-profit body, The Hush Foundation. The Hush Foundation www.hush.org.au now works on a national scale to transform healthcare culture and environments through the arts. Hush has commissioned 16 albums of new Australian music specifically for healthcare applications, though the music is now also very popular with the general public. There is also a Children’s Treasure Book to engage children who are waiting for treatment.

Based on her Churchill research on staff culture and behaviour in healthcare Catherine worked with renowned playwright Alan Hopgood AM to produce the health play Hear Me which has been performed over 130 times in hospitals Australia wide and internationally. This play highlights many of the issues detailed in Catherine’s Churchill report, namely patient-centred care, staff behaviour, communication and patient safety, and it is having continuing positive impact in hospitals.

The play is now a fixture in some university medical curricula. Leading on from the audience feedback at the play, Catherine has developed a Gathering of Kindness event to encourage discussions about a ‘kind’ health system as a way to improve culture and reduce bullying behaviour that can lead to errors, increased costs and poor patient and staff satisfaction. A second play called Do You Know Me? covers topics related to aged care.

In 2015, Catherine was made a member of the Order of Australia for services to Medicine, to community healthcare standards and to the Arts. 

Catherine’s Fellowship was an enormously rewarding experience for her, and has enabled significant and measurable improvements and culture change in Victoria and the nation.

Awards and Honours

  • 2015 awarded Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to medicine, particularly to improved patient and family care and community healthcare standards, and to the arts.
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