Human Touch Is Still Key With The Latest Innovations In Healthcare Technology

Jilea Hemmings
May 14, 2018 · 6 min read

I had the pleasure of interviewing Teri Dreher, owner of NShore Patient Advocates in Chicago. Teri is an award winning leader, author and board certified patient advocate, as well as a former career ICU nurse and humanitarian. Her company is the largest, highest skill level RN Patient Advocacy company in Illinois. She just released her second edition of Patient Advocacy Matters: A Consumers’ Guide To Modern Health Care.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

After 39 years as an ICU nurse in some of the country’s top hospitals, I saw some of the changes in modern healthcare that were becoming difficult to keep the patient at the center of the paradigm. I also came close to getting fired when I saw medical negligence that almost killed a patient; when I advocated for the patient and family, the doctor I questioned went after me. I was right, the doctor was wrong, but it opened my eyes to the financial pressure in hospitals…no one will back a nurse when the doctor is making so much money for the hospital. That’s not the kind of system I wanted to work in any longer, so I started a professional advocacy company to help other patients slipping through the cracks.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I had one patient who was essentially being held hostage by a hospital because they did not believe he could be managed at home with his medical complexities. I worked with the insurance company to put pressure on the facility to release him. They threatened me with an ethics committee hearing which I gladly accepted and won. The patient actually thrived at home and lived longer and happier than he would have in the poor quality nursing homes that the hospital wanted to send him to. Most people do not even know how to fight for patient rights.

I also believe that big hospital systems should look at collaborating with high skill nurse advocacy companies to help reduce hospital readmissions. No one does that better that RN patient advocates. The systems that hospitals are using now do not work. There is no replacement for human touch and experienced assessment at home, which is different from skilled home health. We should be doing everything we can to keep patients out of nursing homes. The quality is generally not adequate and many are breeding grounds for resistant infections. I am convinced that hospitals do not know what they are sending people out to when they are discharged. It’s sad and scary out there for many.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We handle levels of complexity that most other private advocates cannot handle because we are nurses. Most of my nurses have over 20 years clinical experience, Masters degrees and the personalities to stand up collaboratively for injustice. We see things that most people cannot see, because nurses spend more time with patients than anyone. We know where are the gaps and skeletons are in the healthcare system:-)

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Yes. We were just approached by a college in the Chicago area and asked to write curriculum for a Masters program in professional patient advocacy. We are also developing corporate programs to help companies whose employees struggle with aging parents and complex health issues. Keeping those employees will save the company big money and reduce absenteeism and present-eeism issues for adult children struggling to help aging parents.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

They are your most valuable asset; go above and beyond to help them with life balance issues and support the issues they care about. Consider hiring an RN patient advocate on site to help them stay. Showing you care about their family and health issues will make your company stand above the rest of the crowd.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Years ago I had a nurse manager who saw something special in me because I was always a natural patient advocate, going above and beyond to love, care and support my patients helping in multiple levels. She looked at me one day during an annual review and asked me what my five year plan was. She told me about this expanding field of professional advocacy. A couple of years alter when I almost got fired for advocating for a patient, I left. It has been the best career decision of my life.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Absolutely, I have led over a dozen medical mission trips to rural Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, bringing medical supplies and teams to help heal those who have limited access to paramedics or easily accessible healthcare. This fall I am leading a group of fellow Rotarians to South Africa, where we will view an early childhood development project for orphans and vulnerable children in the eastern cape region. It is in it’s fourth year of operation. I am called to help the poorest of the poor and those forgotten victims of poor access to quality care. In this country, those who are slipping through the cracks are not only the poor, but senior orphans and adults with disabilities with no family close by.

Can you share the top five ways that technology is changing the experience of going to the doctor.

Computers: taking attention away from the patient…doctors are spending less face to face time really listening to patients and examining them and more time looking at the computer

Web information: patients can find out almost anything about their medical condition online today and can ask more educated questions if they do their research

Apps on phone: patients who keep medical info on their smart phones can get quicker appropriate care if they suddenly become unconscious; paramedics can access info

Video phone calls: doctors can actually view patient skin changes and see things if patients call with changes that they need to ask about, such as drug reactions or wounds. The doctor can sometimes call in orders instead of telling everyone to go to the ER

Pacemaker remote monitoring: doctors offices can now connect directly to patients at home to review their cardiac rhythm history if the patient has new complaints

Electronic prescriptions: sent from MD offices to pharmacies reduce med errors due to pharmacists not being able to read a doctor’s handwriting.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)

I would love to have breakfast with Melinda Gates. Her leadership inspires me as a woman business owner and I have the same heart for the poor that she does. She and Bill are big dreamers and doers, as I am. I have a dream that this country has better ways to meet the needs of older seniors without family to help them.

Jilea Hemmings CEO & Co-Founder of Best Tyme. She is running a series on how technology is impacting healthcare.