Have you ever tried counting all the cracks and holes in our medical system? I’ve tried and to be honest, I’ve lost count. I’ve lost count of all the instances of poor care after years of working as an occupational therapist, hearing my patients’ stories, and going through medical events with my own family members.
“I can write a book!” one of my patients told me. She had enough stories for a book, just from her own experience! That’s astonishing to me!
In healthcare, we talk about “readmission risk,” “quality measures,” “patient satisfaction,” “utilization of services.” There are positions and departments devoted to improving all these measures. So, how come so many things still get missed? Behind all these metrics are real people who might’ve suffered more than they had to, or got sicker because someone was not paying attention.
What about the pain that the person goes through when their pain pills arrive 2 days after their admission to a rehab facility? What about treatment and diagnosis mistakes that are caused by doctors not communicating with each other about a patient? And how about sending someone home with a new cast or a brace, or right after surgery with no follow-up at home at all?
We can work on improving quality indicators and it will fix some of the problems. But we can’t regulate paying attention and taking time to listen to the patient’s needs. There isn’t a way to manage human touch, kindness, and compassion.
I don’t pretend to have an answer on how to fix all the cracks in our medical system. But seeing a human being who is going through a difficult time in their life instead of “the next patient” might be a good place to start.
- by Nina Rubinstein