Tag Archives: Medicine

Adventures With Healthcare


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?

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Patient & Family Advisory Council


A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a physician. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’m blogging early today because tonight I’ll be in my monthly, late-in-the-day meeting.  It’s the Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital Patient & Family Advisory Council (PFAC).

 

PFAC is a committee made up of staff, patients, family members, and interested community members.  They work together to work on or give guidance and suggestions for projects around the hospital that can more positively impact the patients there.

 

If you have ever been in, or had a family member in, the hospital or if you or a family member have ever worked in a hospital, you probably noticed that some things seemed disconnected or disjointed.  I have been on both sides (patient/family member and staff) and can attest to the fact that each has certain ideas about the other and not all of those thoughts are necessarily true.

 

For instance, when you are a patient at the hospital and the doctor says he wants to run a test to see if he can determine the cause of your ailment, you figure he will go out, order the test, and someone will take you right over to get the test done.  Then the doctor will have the answer.

 

But, what you as a patient don’t realize is that a hospital is not a single entity but actually more like a little city. The doctor will write the order for the test, which is then passed along to the department doing the test.  They have to work you into the schedule since there can be multiple patients getting tested there along with possible tests being done on people who are not patients but are coming in to the hospital to have that test also done.  Once you are on the schedule, you have to be taken to that department at the appointed time.  Some type of transport will be called for.  You go to have the test, perhaps there is some preparation you need so the test can be done.  Once you have completed the test, you will be taken back to your room.

 

Now the doctor gets the test results, right?  Perhaps.  And perhaps the test needs to be read or translated and transcribed onto a report.  Then the report has to be communicated to the doctor.  If it is not communicated to him by the time he wants to see it, he may have to call over to get the results himself.  Now he will communicate the results with you.

 

Each of these steps involves additional people and can take additional time.  So it can be later in the day or even the following day before you get the result of the test the doctor decided needed to be done for you.

 

And on the other side, the hospital (i.e. little city) figures that you naturally know that there are multiple departments (shops) involved in getting this test done for you and they will all try to do their best to work it in in a timely manner and to take care of each little step involved while still taking care of you and all the other patients, family members, and doctors, etc.

 

Anyway, I’ve long thought it would be a great idea for staff and patients to communicate with each other better so each understands the other’s viewpoints and issues.  The PFAC committee is a great step in that very process.  And especially since Saint Joseph is building a brand new building to move into, the committee has a chance to give input and work together on a variety of topics, including something as simple as what type of telephone to provide in the patient rooms!