SHM saves lives as leader of the DVT Awareness Coalition
by Larry Wellikson, MD, FACP
March is an important month for SHM. It is DVT Awareness Month, and once again SHM is leading a coalition of almost 40 organizations to raise the understanding of this disease. DVT causes complications that kill more people every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. This coalition includes the American College of Physicians, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and many more.
The goals of the coalition are to use our knowledge and influence to inform not only the public at large, but health professionals as well. And if our success in 2005 is any measure, the DVT Awareness campaign has really had an impact.
Last year more than 400 million people saw on TV or read our message in magazines and newspapers. Utilizing the compelling story of our national spokesperson, Melanie Bloom, a mother of three girls who lost her young, athletic NBC war-correspondent husband, David, to a fatal pulmonary embolism (PE), our message was seen on “Larry King Live” on CNN, on the “Jane Pauley Show,” on “Access Hollywood,” and in Ladies Home Journal.
Often Melanie was accompanied by hospitalists such as Frank Michota, MD, the head of the Hospital Medicine Division at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Michota answered the clinical questions in the interviews. Who can forget when Larry King turned to Dr. Michota and asked, “Are you a cardiologist?”
“No, Larry, I am a hospitalist,” said Dr. Michota.
And when Larry King asked “What is a hospitalist?” Dr. Michota spread the gospel according to hospital medicine to a nationwide audience.
Later in the year a billboard on Rockefeller Center in New York City proclaimed the DVT Awareness message along with the SHM logo. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
But this campaign isn’t just about TV appearances and magazine articles. This is about using awareness to save lives. And save lives we did. More than a thousand letters and e-mails were sent to the coalition in 2005 from patients and family members with personal stories of how exposure to our campaign led them to go to their doctors or show up in an ED. They were treated early for DVT—before they developed a potentially fatal PE. They credit the DVT Awareness Campaign with saving their lives.
In 2006 SHM is back at the head of the coalition. In January at the National Press Club, I was fortunate enough to help roll out the details of our 2006 campaign. Joining me on the dais were Dr. Michota; Geno Merli, MD, from Jefferson Medical College and a frequent speaker at SHM meetings; and Sam Goldhaber, MD, from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s in Boston.
This year we have set a goal of further engaging the public by telling our patients’ stories, by forming patient affinity groups, by providing the tools for health professionals to provide the best care for DVT and PE, and by continuing to use the media to spread our message.
SHM has a robust set of educational and quality improvement tools in the DVT Resource Room on the SHM Web site at www.hospitalmedicine.org under the “Quality/Patient Safety” tab. There hospitalists can find an SHM DVT workbook to help measure their performance and improve their outcomes. At the SHM 2006 Annual Meeting on May 3, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., SHM will host a precourse on quality improvement, and one of the key conditions is DVT. SHM hopes to raise funds for future demonstration projects to improve patient outcomes in DVT and even to set up skilled mentors who can help hospitalists trying to affect change at their hospitals for the first time.
SHM is a young, enthusiastic organization that lacks the cynicism of entrenchment. We actually do believe with some help and support we can make quality matter, even without pay for performance and before regulated performance standards.
We see the DVT Awareness Coalition as a template for SHM’s call to action. It involves participation across the continuum involving other physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and patients. It is proactive and targeted with not only improving public knowledge, but recognizing that maybe not every doctor and nurse knows all the latest information, either. It is focused on making a tangible difference, not just writing a white paper or a guideline and declaring victory. It is about saving lives in 2005 and again in 2006. It is about multiplying the efforts of SHM by the multiple of the number of hospitals that now have hospitalists.
There is much promise to hospital medicine. Some see this as a future play with only a foundation being built today. There are surely many great things ahead for hospital medicine as we grow to more than 30,000 hospitalists at virtually every hospital in America. There are many skills left for us to learn. But hospitalists and SHM are making a difference today. We are not doing it alone, but through teamwork and coalition-building. We are proud to be a partner in the DVT Awareness Coalition and we are glad to provide leadership when asked. The payoff is in the lives we have saved and the lives we have changed for the better. TH
Dr. Wellikson has been CEO of SHM since 2000.
The Hospitalist newsmagazine reports on issues and trends in hospital medicine. The Hospitalist reaches more than 25,000 hospitalists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, residents, and medical administrators interested in the practice and business of hospital medicine.