In the end, it was hepatitis. Not some organized alphabetized version, but a quick, no-holds-barred attack from inside that would give me 10 days in the hospital and a look at healthcare from a very different perspective.
I am a clinician. I am also a healthcare IT expert. And now, I am a patient.
My induction into patient life was abrupt and unexpected. I, who had not been hospitalized in 30 years, was afflicted with sepsis in very short order. The trip to the emergency department, the 103 degree fever, and the 10 days spent in the hospital are all a bit of a blur.
Looking at it weeks later, from the slow recovery side of things, I offer these observations.
I don’t know if they still teach something called ‘bedside manner’, but my experience with clinicians varied significantly. On the high end of the scale were the infectious disease doctor and hospitalist who coordinated care, modeled teamwork, and went out of their way to explain tests and procedures to me and my family. On the low end was the consulting physician, who referred to me as the ‘bile duct in 52’ in a hallway conversation that I happened to overhear.
The nursing, lab, radiology, and transport staff will forever have my gratitude for the way they fiercely protected my modesty (even when I was too sick to care), kept me informed about test results, and treated me and my family with utmost kindness.
The Electronic Medical Record
Ironically, I actually helped build the EMR and train users at the hospital where I was admitted. It was astonishing and very impressive to see it in action. I was able to see how quickly blood test results came back, watch the multiple ultrasounds and CT scans, and even observe my own liver biopsy.
It was fascinating, but reminded me that the EMR is only a tool that offers safeguards and suggestions. The physicians on my case were dogged in their pursuit of this infection, but even with the best of electronic records, they could not grow a blood culture faster or obtain instantaneous results on lab draws. These just take time. As good as an EMR is, it can help with the diagnostic process, but cannot magically make it faster.
At the end of the day, it’s the human things that I will remember most – the infectious disease doctor who held my hand in the ED, the hospitalist who sat on the end of my bed for 30 minutes and explained what was happening and said that she would “tell us when to worry,” and the number of nurses who looked me in the eye and said, ‘I am so sorry this is happening.”
Despite advances in healthcare information technology, there’s still an inherent need for the personal connection – the relationship. That is the vehicle for healing. As the industry tackles the patient engagement challenge, the relationship – the patient experience – truly is at the center.
Kathy Krypel, LICSW, PMP is a master advisor for Aspen Advisors.