My experience with the healthcare system has been vast and varied. Recent events have reminded me once again how important it is for both sides to try to communicate properly with one another; not presuming that the other knows everything about your side of the situation. Even when it seems the other knows you, what you expect of them, the situation, and its outcome, there is plenty of room for misunderstanding, miscommunication, and mistaken conclusions.
In other words, for best possible outcomes, both patients and caregivers must ask for and give lots of information. Over-communicating is better than under-communicating.
One situation I am quite familiar with is chronic pain. Happily I can report that healthcare has made great advances in dealing with people who have chronic pain. With the pain scale having become the gold-standard for assessing the amount of pain patients are feeling, physicians and other caregivers can have a much clearer picture of what is going on. This helps guide their decision-making processes, enabling them to give greater comfort and aid than might otherwise be possible.
There are healthcare professionals who are very aware of chronic pain and how it affects patients. They strive to take proper care of all patients, even hiring pain management teams to assist. They see the situations their patients experience, and are increasing their knowledge in order to relieve greater suffering. They take into account that not all patients feel pain in the same way, that some have an incredibly high threshold for pain while others have a very low tolerance for it. And they seek to treat each as an individual with his or her own treatment plan.
They have talked with patients and learned that some, particularly those with chronic pain, are never pain-free and must be kept at a pain-medication maintenance level at all times, even when in the hospital. They have acknowledged the fact that these patients need pain medicine to make the pain tolerable and help them function. These patients do not ask for ever-increasing amounts of the medicine, they remain at the same dosage level for years.
These patients need additional pain medication when having had surgery or a serious injury that causes increased pain. Well-informed caregivers realize that it is much easier, and takes less medication, to stay on top of the pain than it is to try to play catch-up after the pain has reached searing heights.
Additionally they recognize that there are some patients who should be, or perhaps are, feeling great pain because of their situation, yet are more concerned with remaining drug-free or at least under-medicated. Reasons for this can vary from having previously had a negative reaction to the normal pain medication regimen all the way to believing they will be driving themselves home soon and wanting to remain clear-headed.
I have experienced situations where the attending physician went to great lengths to solve the underlying problem and continue treatment until it was resolved. And I have experienced situations where the caregivers simply act along the baseline for that type of situation, not looking any deeper to become familiar with the whole picture (or perhaps just failing to review the situation with the patient where assurances could have been given, and needs properly addressed). The more we know and understand all sides of issues within healthcare, the better off all will be. Suffering can decrease and wellness increase as pain and other complications are handled properly or avoided altogether.
What types of healthcare experiences have impacted you?