Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Politics and Patient Advocacy

What does today’s politics have to do with being a patient advocate?

In our Family Centered Patient Advocacy Training which is based on being a Patient Safety Advocate for friends, family or becoming a professional, we stress the importance of being a good listener and being objective.  This past election year and the past weeks have become a great test for these skills.

As I listen to the news, I hear opposing comments and ideas. Depending on what channel I watch there can be very strong opinions one way or another. One reporter or speaker won’t make me change my mind, won’t make me feel differently, but it gives me the skills to try to understand that what is being said is  important to the people saying it and the people supporting them.

I am glad that there are people speaking out on their beliefs.  That is important to our country.  It has never been OK to call names and poke fun of people’s looks or behavior when that is not the focus of the issues.  It loses credibility when I hear about the way a person dresses, walks or laughs and that becomes part of the discussion.

Being a patient’s advocate means being able to focus on facts and what really matters to the patient. Being objective which may mean putting your own feelings aside to listen and then allow a patient to make their own decisions, even if it’s not what you would want for yourself - or them. 

If you are a friend or family member acting as an advocate for a loved one who wants to have surgery but you don't think its a good idea, it means listening carefully and trying to understand what they want and why they want it that way. If you can’t get past your own needs then you may not be the best advocate.  Find an advocate that can be objective and right for the whole family. 

As I watch what looks like a civil war starting on our own soil, I want to get some good out of this.  It may be to just practice my listening.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When One Door Closes

A Letter to My Doctor
Today I sent the following letter to a doctor.  I hope others are encouraged to share why they leave a practice before they go.


I am requesting that my medical records be forwarded to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I will not be able to use your services any longer.  Please allow me to explain why.
First, I should explain how I chose you as a physician — and possibly a surgeon — that I would use.  I put a call out to friends and family for a recommendation.  Your name came up.  Even though our state physician profile lists you as having made five malpractice payments in the past six years, three payments above average, I did recognize that your membership of five prestigious organizations such as the American Medical Association, the Medical Society of State of NY and the Nassau County Medical Society might mean patient safety was important to you. 

I thought it would be important to share with you why I am leaving and can’t recommend your practice.

      1.  I found it offensive and disturbing that my reason for seeing you was discussed at the front desk.  I knew why other patients were there because it is asked when signing in, and written down where the next person can see; also, the receptionist confirmed aloud what my appointment was about.  Although this is not a HIPAA violation it would be a breach of privacy were there someone present from my circle of friends or family with whom I didn’t want to share my business. Imagine if a gynecologist’s receptionist asked whether a patient was there for a pap test or a yeast infection, or to see if she were pregnant.  These discussions belong inside your office.

     2. Although your x-ray technician was very nice, he seemed rushed and impatient with other staff.  He told your PA that he was waiting for me for a half hour.  I was not even there for 10 minutes.  He also did not describe what was happening to me, what he would do, or why he would do it.  He said almost nothing to me.  A brief explanation of what would be happening while he was working – thus taking no extra time — would have been helpful, especially if I were someone feeling scared or alone. It also would have made a great impact on my experience.

     3. I don’t appreciate being called “Doll” after every sentence by a staff person who is half my age (or any staff person).  If she couldn’t remember my name, there are safer ways of confirming she has the correct person.

     4. An unknown, elderly woman in a wheelchair was wheeled into my room while I was waiting for you.  I had to stop the staff person from bringing her in.  He apologized and said he had the wrong room.  This gives the impression that your office is in some disarray and there are on-going problems.

     5. On my first visit with you, you were obviously very sick with a serious head cold and let me know that.  I understand that it is not easy to take off from work, yet you never washed your hands and even after blowing your nose you went back onto the computer in your room without cleaning your hands.  Then, you left the room touching the door knob.
 Dr. XXX, this letter is not being sent as an official complaint to the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, but instead offers an opportunity to review practices that can be viewed as potential hazards to your reputation, your staff, and most importantly your patients. It is very difficult for me to write this letter but I think it is very important that these issues of respect, courtesy and safety are addressed.

Thank you for your time.

Ilene Corina, Patient Safety Advocate

American Medical Association
Medical Society of State of NY
Nassau County Medical Society