It is often said that we can only grow stronger by acknowledging our weaknesses, and the potential of that strength is no more apparent than in Scott Sagel, MD, Director of the Mike McMorris Cystic Fibrosis Research and Care Centerat Children’s Hospital Colorado, and winner of the PRC 5-Star Award for Patient Satisfaction in 2014.
Dr. Sagel is committed to finding ways to improve his department and the lives of children living with lung disease, yet when asked about his achievements, he remains humble.
“Really, I’m fortunate to be part of an excellent multidisciplinary team where we can each address specific aspects of pediatric health,” he said. “We work together to provide a global approach to care, and this, I think, is the key to patient satisfaction.”
Dr. Sagel acknowledges, however, that he places a large emphasis on quality improvement, with mental health screening one such measure.
Several years ago, as part of an ongoing drive for improvement, Dr. Sagel and his team conducted a survey on patient and family experience of care. The survey yielded unexpected results: poor scores for patient mental health.
After considering a plan of action, Dr. Sagel took these results to Children’s Hospital Colorado and requested support to integrate mental health care into their provisions for children with cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases.
“We really learned that mental health plays a critical role in the overall health of our patients,” he said. “With the financial support we received from Children’s, we were fortunate to integrate pediatric psychologists into our team. This has been a great step forward for the health of our patients.”
One of Dr. Sagel’s patients, a 15-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis, is the perfect example of how this change has led to better treatment adherence and better overall outcomes. “The burden of treatment for this patient was intense and very time consuming,” he said. “She had multiple comorbidities and required 2–3 hours a day of treatment.”
The integration of Dr. Sagel’s holistic approach to disease management has yielded substantial results. “The outcome was that this patient began to do better in her schoolwork and day-to-day activities, and her growth and lung function improved significantly,” he said.
Yet while Dr. Sagel may be modest about his role in his department’s success, the effect he has on his patients should not be underestimated. “Dr. Sagel is a tireless advocate for the children in his care,” said Michael Narkewicz, MD, Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs.
“His clinical style is warm and open, and it is easy for his patients to see how much he cares for them. He also takes that same passion for care all the way to his research into new therapies and tests to better predict outcome in lung disease.”
Dr. Sagel asserts that research is an important part of being a clinician. “Research informs clinical care,” he said. “It helps to provide the right treatment to the right patient, and also enables you to stay at the cutting edge. Research certainly makes me a better clinician.”
As for patient satisfaction, Dr. Sagel explains that excellence in patient satisfaction can be defined in many ways.
“I suspect the most important trait is to listen to the patient and family and make sure you hear their concerns,” he said. “But it is also about being thoughtful and deliberate. It’s about really trying to understand the reasons or causes of the child’s disease, and being willing to investigate and consult with colleagues as needed.”
When asked about his future quality improvement initiatives, Dr. Sagel is pragmatic and committed. “We will never do things perfectly,” he said. “There is always room for improvement, but we will continue to do everything we can to improve patient care.”
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