STEPS to Value Podcast Episode #25: The Value of Listening: Pastoral Care & The Role of HIT

STEPS to Value host, Rod Piechowski, recently spoke with Judi Painter, a health IT industry veteran and recently ordained hospital chaplain. Rod and Judi discussed how health IT can impact the ability for health care providers to listen to their patients regarding their non-clinical needs.

Hear Judi’s entire interview here.

Rod Piechowski: I'm here with Judi Painter. Judi has over 25 years of healthcare experience across the continuum of care. She's worked as a senior project manager and a heath care strategist. She was also chair of the 2015 HIMSS innovation committee. Judi, thank you for joining us today.

Judi Painter: Thank you, Rod, for allowing me to be able to share today.

Rod: This is going to be an interesting conversation. After a career in health IT, you had a major career change. You became a hospital Chaplain, correct?

Judi: Yes, that's correct, Rod.

Rod: How has your past healthcare experience informed your current focus?

Judi: Thank you very much for asking that question, Rod. As you know over the past years I worked across many continuums. Now being responsible for the spiritual care of patients, family and my health care staff is quite a different focus. My major concern today, which I believe calls for disruptive action across the health care continuum, is the very apparent lack of humanness in health care today.

Rod: Can you give me an example of what you mean by that?

Judi: Absolutely. Health care is a business based on science and technology, but with the advent of all the technical destructions and benefits in today's world, the human element is really disappearing. What I mean by that is that we are all humans, the staff, the patients and the families. We all have fears, vulnerabilities and strengths. At the end of the day, we are human beings in health care caring for human beings, not just inputting information into many different technical innovations.

Rod: Healthcare, obviously, is a very complex thing and it is an intimate experience. People bring with them complexities of their lives and their intimate experiences outside of the healthcare setting when they enter into the world of care provision. For some people, this could be a faith‑based preference, others, not so much. Can you share some examples of how that aspect has an effect on care?

Judi: Faith and religious care is recognizing and supporting the patient's belief in either a divine spirit or a power. There are many different religions and faiths in the world today, and they all have different customs and rituals. Spiritual care on the other hand is care of what we call the soul, the individual patient, their story, and really what comes from within. Pastoral care, as we look at most of our pastoral care departments, is a model where the emotional and spiritual care that can be found in all cultures and all traditions.


It's really based on listening to the patient, not trying to fix, or heal, or read texts from a Bible or another source, but simply listening. It has been lost is that listening, that care time, because traditionally in the past, the nurses and the doctors and the healthcare staff were the folks that did a lot of the listening. Because pastoral care is way underfunded and simply does not have the capacity to reach out to all patients, usually only the sick or the dying. Much of that has been lost because of all the technical requirements. They're all good. There just simply isn't enough time in the day to be able to provide that listening time or that special care time that is so important to the healing of the patient.

Rod: This is a program about the value of health information technology. We haven't talked about health information technology yet. Does it play a role in this, and how does that come into play in this conversation?

Judi: It really comes into play in a very important role. From the moment a patient is admitted, throughout the hospital stay, through the health information technology system, much of the demographic information is included. Part of that is their faith, whether they belong to a church organization, and whether or not they would like to have a chaplain visit them.

What also has happened, and I've experienced this myself as a patient, a nurse typically today spends about 40 percent of her time on health information technology systems that they have, either ordering medications or doing other important input of data that is very critical to the quality of care, but unfortunately doesn't have the time they used to have to be able to sit and listen or perhaps have a conversation with the patient.

It even comes down to asking questions, "How do you feel?" This is a very important part of value as we look at the health information technology today. How do we get that care time back? There's a real yearning for learning about how to put that listening back into healthcare that care back into healthcare. I think that there's a lot of folks out there that would be interested in learning some of these skills. Some of them are pretty simple, and really just require a change in communication.