Saturday, November 29, 2008

Compassion in Health Care

I recently had the honor of speaking at the Colorado Patient Safety Coalition’s 8th annual conference. This coalition is made up of professionals who are moving forward in the advancement of patient safety. The conference was only one day but very informative and probably one of the better conferences I have ever gone to. I heard Dr. Nancy Nielson, President of the AMA speak about the loss of her dear friend from a medical error and share her pain as well as her frustration. I am no longer amazed at who, and how many people have experienced first hand the harm done by the medical system (there is no doubt all the good there is done). It has just become a matter of time until those who have not experienced a medical error or adverse event, will.

I had the opportunity to have dinner with and hear Dr. Robin Youngson speak about Compassion in Healthcare. It’s a way of life that may need to be learned but is well worth the time. To get to hear Dr. Youngson was an honor. I can only hope that some of him can rub off and I could learn from him the meaning of compassion in every day living. You don’t need to be a doctor to learn to be compassionate, just human.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Saying Sorry

The staff who work in the hospital still are not very quick to say “I’m sorry” if there was an injury or death because of their medical care. They will say “I’m sorry” if the patient died from cancer, old age or a car accident. But, bring a fairly healthy person into the hospital to get a routine procedure that leads to infection, and then death, chances are you will not hear an apology. Why is this?

I don’t have the answers. Unfortunately it seems inhumane – but it’s not illegal.

Recently I had the honor of accompanying 3 mothers of young children who had bad experiences in a local hospital to visit with the state Department of Health. They were not only angry about the care (or lack of care) received but also at the way the state handled their complaint(s).

It’s not easy getting an appointment to visit with the people who make the decisions on how our state runs but I thought our time was used well.

Following the 90 minute meeting, one of the people in the room shook the hand of one of the moms and said “I’m sorry”. Words that many survivors of medical injury hope to one day hear. She was relieved and impressed that he spoke those words.

“No one has ever said that to me” she said on the car ride home.

If there is still trouble in expressing remorse, than how can we dare trust these same people to make life saving decisions for us. Do they care if we live or die? If they care than they should feel free to show it. They can cry, laugh and for goodness sake say “I’m sorry”!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Sue?

Why do people sue their trusted doctor or hospital? Sometimes it’s because they just have no choice. It becomes a battle of the fittest when a corporation has the right to not answer questions, not meet with a patient or not even address the death or unplanned outcome of care.

A recent call to a major health facility left me wanting to tell the patient “get a lawyer”. But that was not what the patient wanted. My goal is to learn what the patient’s needs are. Not what mine are.

The patient was willing to meet with an administrator at this hospital to learn what happened during her surgery that seemed to concern other doctors enough that they would each tell her to go back to the original physician that did the surgery.

“No one will treat me” she said. Plus the painful symptoms following her surgery made me realize that maybe something did go wrong. I can only encourage her to seek medical attention of which she has tried. They did not tell her she was imagining things but instead, she told me that 2 different doctors told her there were problems that needed to be addressed by the original physician.

The original physician would not see her. Do I need the details? Absolutely not. But, when I called the hospital and spoke to a colleague, she thought a lawyer there may be the best choice. Unfortunetly, the lawyer probed me with questions of which I did not have the answer. I was just trying to make the contact for this woman who was scared and alone so she could make one call and have some questions answered.

Instead, the lawyer left me with the task to get more information. By the time I hung up the phone, I wanted to call the patient and suggest she needs a lawyer. Instead I called her and explained that they want more information before they meet or even speak with her. I think she got a lawyer.