Monday, March 9, 2009

Effective Communication is Critical – Especially When Triaging (& Caring for) Hospital Patients

Last week I wrote about the pharmaceutical industry.

This week, it became more personal.

My 84-year old mother passed out in her apartment. Fortunately, she had a medical alert button. So, she ultimately was taken to the hospital.

Hospitals are scary places. You don’t want to be there without an advocate. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

If you are old, sick, or unassertive, you can become a nonentity.

For example, my mother had four different health professionals (nurses, medical students, interns and residents) ask about the medications she is taking.

Did they compare notes? No, they didn’t.

They panicked when they saw something going on in her brain – but no one had recorded the fact that she had surgery 30 years ago for a condition, and there was some scar tissue. My mom told the nurse that, but no one found that note.

My mom told me that she liked a particular doctor. Why? Because she listened. Mom spent days being tested and no one told her for what, and why.

Here’s my take and recommendations for all hospital personnel -- and the irony is, for the most part, the negatives weren’t clinical or medical in nature, they were about good communication.

•Treat patients as people, not a disease state.

•Ask questions – listen – record responses when essential.

•Communicate these answers with all people involved in the “case.”

•Ask the patient what he or she needs – food, drink, the bathroom, medication, etc. Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel still works.

•Keep family members updated frequently – let them decide what information may not be that “essential.”

I realize that hospital personnel are overworked. However, if they treated each patient as though it was their mother (or parent); they might make the experience a bit more pleasant.

Typically, a hospital stay is not a choice, so, please don’t make it any worse!

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