Woman Patents Tool to Bring Dignity and Safety to Patients

A Rhode Island woman has patented a tool for hospital and nursing home patients that empowers them to communicate with staff, stay safer from hospital infections, and maintain a sense of normalcy.

"No one likes being in the hospital," says Pat Mastors, co-founder of the Patient Voice Institute and a national policy advisor on patient safety, "but the Patient Pod empowers you to do things that actually help you get well…and feel listened to, connected and human." Mastors began working on the Patient Pod as a labor of love after her father's death in the hospital.

The Patient Pod is a "multi-tool" that clips on the bed rail, IV pole, walker or wheelchair. It's an easily cleaned pouch for personal items like cell phone, eyeglasses and hearing aids, to keep them within reach and safe from "accidentally getting tossed in the trash when they're left on your dinner tray," says Mastors.

The Pod includes personal hand sanitizer, notepad and pen, and incorporates a messaging system "to tell staff at a glance about a question or need, like a hearing problem or allergy," says Mastors, who points out that communication glitches are a major cause of unintended medical harm, which kills as many as 440,000 patients each year. The Patient Pod has slots in the front for a favorite photo and the name you prefer to be called. "Hospital staff are so busy, and you might be seen by a dozen different people in one day," says Mastors. "When they come in and see your photo and name, they connect with you more easily as a person."

Says Kent Hospital (Warwick, RI) CEO Sandra Coletta, who gave her mother a Patient Pod when she was hospitalized, "It's like bringing a friend to the hospital with you...familiar and comforting, in a place where nothing is yours."

The Pod's patented design allows it to attach to virtually any bed rail, and swivel to stay level when the rail goes up and down.

Mastors says in hospital pilots in five states, virtually every patient and nurse who used a Patient Pod would recommend it to family and friends. The Patient Pod website includes testimonials, and shows how hospitals can save money through better patient satisfaction, less lost personal items and other benefits.

Mastors' father died of complications from a common hospital-acquired infection called Clostridium difficile. "I began working on patient safety laws, but also wanted to patients to participate in promoting good hand hygiene—the best guard against infection." In addition to hand sanitizer and wipes the Pod also contains custom covers for the TV remote, the "germiest" item in the patient's room.

"My dad's hearing aids got ruined when water spilled on them. Then I kept putting notes around his room asking people to 'speak up into his left ear.' But his room got switched maybe a dozen times over six months, and the notes got lost. My father felt increasingly isolated and depressed. I wanted to fix these things."

Mastors took a prototype of the Patient Pod to Fuzion Design of Pawtucket, RI, which helped get the Patient Pod manufactured, and then co-patented the design.

Mastors, who advises the Partnership for Patients, the National Quality Forum and others on patient and family engagement, is also author of the critically acclaimed book Design to Survive, on how simplicity and partnership with patients are the keys to an improved healthcare system.

The Patient Pod is available online for $19.95, in select hospital gift shops.

Source: Pear Health LLC

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