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The concept of a patient's contact person was originally introduced in Denmark as a political goal. It was elevated into law in 2009. As an integrated part of the Danish Healthcare Quality Program, Danish hospitals must have programs allowing each patient a contact person, who should take an active part in treatment and care. However, the concept is still not well implemented on a broader scale. Implementing a patient's contact person concept in an ICU produces new obstacles. The ICU differs from other clinical settings in various ways. It is heavier staffed at all hours. The number of doctors is limited and nurses perform primary care. Each staff member has good insight in all patient cases, which are discussed at the daily conferences. So, is the patient's contact person really important in the ICU?
Questionnaires were handed out to the close relatives of every patient who stayed more than 72 hours in the ICU. Ninety-four questionnaires have been returned with usable data. No attempt to retrieve questionnaires from nonrespondents has been made. All were returned in marked envelopes, the questionnaire itself being unmarked. The questionnaire contained two questions on the patient's contact person: 1. In your experience, did you have a contact person? 2. Do you think there is a need for a contact person? Both questions were simple yes/no answers, with the possibility of adding comments. The analysis focused on quantity and quality, as displayed in the remarks made.
The median age of the respondents was 56 years (range 27 to 81 years). On the first question, whether you had a contact person, 40 answered Yes and 54 No. On the second question, whether there is a need for a contact person, 55 answered Yes, 31 No and eight did not answer. Twenty-six and 23 answered respectively Yes and No in both questions. Analyzing the comments made on whether you had a contact person, a different picture emerges. Of 39 comments, four are indifferent and 35 are positive - feeling that they have been met in a competent and caring manner. The comments made on whether there is a need for a contact person reflect an important discussion: some wish for a contact person, arguing that it will make them feel safer when in distress. Others point out that it would be difficult and that the contact person might not be available when needed due to the rotation shift work of nurses and doctors.
This study shows that there is still a place and need for improvement in the concept of a patient's contact person.