Two things happened to me recently that typify the inspiration and frustrations that are the health sector.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to sit for 4 quiet long days in the general surgery ward of one of our public hospitals, supporting my ill mother. It was a rare chance to spend 11 hours each day observing the flow of people and services through the ward.

For a number of years now Cemplicity has been striving to capture patient experience feedback and bring this alive for hospitals so they take action to improve. Sitting with my mother, I now had the opportunity to see how successful we have been.

Patients tell us that good communication, feeling confident about the quality of their care and treatment, and getting consistent and coordinated care while in hospital are the three things that matter most.

I felt let down by my mother’s experience and even with my questions and advocacy, my mother left the hospital in worse shape than she entered it. I was dismayed that two such important factors as good communication and coordinated care still present such a challenge, but perhaps it was a good trigger for me to recommit myself to the role Cemplicity can have in bringing about change.

Soon after this I had three days attending an International Integrated Care conference. It seemed incongruous to listen to people from around the world talk about patient-centred and integrated care after the days spent in a hospital where departments didn’t even communicate with each other.

I was despondent about our ability to transform health and social services to enable people to “plan my care with people who work together to understand me and my carer(s) allow me control and bring together services to achieve the outcomes important to me” (a definition of Integrated Care from National Voices in the UK).

Then, up stood Awerangi Tamahere from Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust. What a beacon of light, to hear about the Waipareira Trust’s long-term work to deliver integrated care services to their whānau.

I was particularly struck by the important role of what the Trust call ‘navigators’ in an integrated approach. These navigators work with families to set goals, understand needs and preferences and then organise services to meet these. The community and whānau focus is such a natural factor in, and strength of, their approach.

The Trust’s work reminded me of the importance of identifying and learning from excellence. With a goal as monumental as integrated care, we need to find the people who are already doing it and build on their progress. In the meantime if teams can just focus on clear communication that patients can understand and coordination with the teams they work with, we can start making a difference.