I hit the beach two years ago this month. My involvement with healthcare has been a more distance affair as a result—-unless it involves members of my extended family. Then I often get an earful.
Since the first of this year, a number of family members have had encounters with healthcare including two hospitalizations. These encounters have included care from three very large healthcare systems and two smaller systems. I have been keeping notes of what I have seen and will share them here:
Who’s In Charge?
The healthcare provided to my family members has been satisfactory and in some cases superb. If you look at the process of healthcare as involving segments of care, each segment of each hospitalization my family members experienced went well. It was at the connecting points within each hospitalization where things sometimes did not go well.
There needs to be further thinking about how to make hand-offs of care from one provider or work shift go better. This extends as well to the segment of care which is post hospitalization. Often, patients and their family members were not adequately kept in the information loop. Whomever figures out a way to make the patient care process consistently go more smoothly and in a coordinated way is going to get rich or at least appreciated.
Why Do We Bother With the EMR?
Electronic medical records are great! They improve patient care. If you are a provider, you get punish if you don’t use one. That has been the hype.
I don’t buy the EMR hype any longer although before I hit the beach I was an enthusiastic supporter of EMRs. Reality has set in.
A recent personal experience. I just had my annual physical which I have every 18-24 months, longer if I can get away with it. I have a great primary care physician. He asks all the right questions even if a number of them are a little embarrassing. His scribe takes it all down.
His scribe? Yes, there is a third-party in the exam room with me and the doc. It’s a little get together. That’s because the EMR which was supposed to make life easier for the physician has done the opposite. What used to involve just the doctor has required the addition of another person. Two’s company, three’s a scribe.
So now there is the distraction of the scribe tapping away my answers to personal questions. So much for my fifteen minute appointment.
EMRs have become a burden and with the lack of interoperability between systems not very useful when the information is most needed.
What Can Be Done About Electronic Tumors?
There was a time when at work you were expected not to make personal phone calls or otherwise divert your attention from your work. Not anymore. Everyone has electronic tumors, usually attached to one of their hands or ears.
In virtually every clinical setting I saw staff during the time they were supposed to attend to the business at hand, accessing personal cell phones. I saw it in doctor offices, nursing stations, in hallways and in other outpatient areas. It’s not a good look and to outsiders conveys a lack of interest in patients.
Interestingly, I seldom saw physicians with the cell phone affliction. They seemed much more focused on their patients and their needs. Perhaps a new surgical procedure can be developed for cell phone amputation. It will be painful.
Why Could I Not Get A Mountain Dew?
I have spent hours recently in four different hospitals worrying about a family member. It can be very stressful when a family member is sick enough to be in the hospital. You need to be emotionally comfortable in such situations.
My favorite hospital was NorthBay Medical Center but not for the reason you may think. The reason is that at NorthBay you can get a Mountain Dew with SUGAR! Liquid comfort— and caffeine—was readily available.
The other hospitals have decided to become food nannies and do not sell sugared soft drinks. I have been to their cafeterias and vending machines and all you can get is high price water and soft drinks artificially sweetened (if that is the word) with complex chemical compounds. Research is inconclusive as to whether these chemicals are good for you or will cause your nose to fall off.
I also observed Starbucks refugees in these food nanny cafeterias loading their cups of coffee with sugar. Some sugar is better than other sugar?
What I found even more galling at the other hospitals is that they blithely sell donuts, pastries and ice cream which are full of sugar. The food nannies are not consistent. Or maybe they just like donuts. I had two one morning just to spite the food nannies.
Visiting and worrying about a loved one is stressful enough. Having access denied to soft drinks with SUGAR is an insult and a micro aggression. I am an adult fully capable of making my own decisions.
I think I am going to sue. I need my Mountain Dew.
Hopefully the next few months on the beach will not be so stressful. I will always have a six pack of Mountain Dew—with SUGAR— close by for comfort.