Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Remembering the Medical Injury

Have you ever wondered why people who have experienced medical injury seem to remember for many years later the conversations with healthcare providers following the incident? A 60 Minutes program about the medication called Proprandol that can block painful memories for post traumatic stress also mentioned how post traumatic stress or PTS happens. Another article on the same subject has just surfaced.

Adrenaline is released when an incident happens that makes you angry and emotional and this adrenaline actually makes you remember better.

Those who experience medical injury remember the details of the incident itself. However, it is often the conversations that follow the incident, with the medical personnel in which answers are not honest and forthright, that the patient and their family remember and focus on. I call this “he said she said”. Although it is better to focus on facts so others can learn from the incident, it is the conversations that follow that get the most focus.

Example: a patient may have had a delayed diagnosis because no one called about her test results. This alone is very traumatic and has a lesson - we should always call to get our own test results if we do not hear from the doctor’s office. But, the conversation may continue, “I asked the doctor why they didn’t call and he said he would look into it.” This may seem a reasonable answer, but this answer may be what has actually traumatized the patient long after she received her treatment, even with good results, because this conversation is what caused the adrenalin to be released. Additional conversations are also remembered in detail and are as painful.

Although there is no proof, it does seem like something worth knowing. Studies have shown repeatedly that honest disclosure and upfront compensation or an apology reduces the chance of a lawsuit. It may be another reason that patients experiencing medical injury should be treated fairly and with honesty from the beginning. Maybe treated with respect and honesty will keep that adrenilin from flowing.

No comments: