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Thursday, 12 December 2013 09:10

A View from the Other Side of Healthcare

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post 72 picI have worked in the healthcare technology field for over 30 years and this has given me a pretty good handle on knowing what goes on in a typical healthcare setting. 

However, in early November I was afforded the opportunity to see the industry from a different perspective, that of a patient.  I broke my right leg.  I thought I’d use this blog post to give you my impressions of that experience. 

For once I was in a doctor’s office and the technology being used was not my focus.  Even my dental office got involved in the journey.

We’ll start with the emergency room visit.  I’ve had the occasion to drop in on this slice of the hospital several times in the past year due to an aging mother in-law and on a Friday or Saturday night it is a bee hive of activity.  Luckily my duties in those visits have been confined to sitting in the waiting room. 

It was a Saturday morning when I was called on to be the leading man in my healthcare drama and the bee hive was only a quiet hum.  After a couple of quick administrative questions I was ushered into an examining room for a few more questions, pokes and prods and then off to x-ray.

 

I’m sure the people in ER must see a case like mine several times per week with various extremities but they showed care and compassion seeming to know that this was the first broken anything I’d ever had. 

The x-ray technician was so apologetic about any pain she inflicted in positioning my leg; I needed to regularly assure her that I was doing fine.  

After a splint was put in place, I was told that I’d need to see my orthopedist at the earliest opportunity in the next week.  My orthopedist?  Like I have one standing by in case I break something.  Don’t worry, they responded, you will have an orthopedist by the time you leave the ER.  And I did.  

My trip to the orthopedist was quick and efficient.  I was able to get in Monday afternoon and again saw only compassionate and caring people. 

As I moved to this specialty care setting, I was again reminded of the routine nature of my problem to these people, but I never got the impression that I was in an assembly line where broken bones come in one end and healed ones come out the other.  

After my visit with the orthopedist it just so happened that I was scheduled for my six-month dental hygiene appointment.  I saw no reason to change this so I crutched into my dentist’s office. 

More caring people, but this care setting would have no contribution to make to my broken leg…  I thought.  After the “how-did-it-happen” questions from the hygienist, I got a brief lesson on internal orthopedic appliances and the possible need to pre-medicate for future dental appointments – a question that needed to be posed to my orthopedist. 

The best advice of the day came from the office manager.  “Get a pair of those sweatpants with a zipper up the leg to ease them over the splint, cast or boot that I would be wearing.”   

Surgery was stressful, but not because of the people or the atmosphere.  It’s the knowing of what lies ahead of you – a process that is not easy to think about, even today.  The people were efficient and professional.  If this had to be done, I was certain I was in good hands.

As all the clinical activity was going on, I was introduced to the administrative jungle of FMLA/OFLA and Short Term Disability.  This was new to me, but not to the people at the orthopedist.  I can see why healthcare providers complain about the administrative hoops they must regularly jump through.

So my attention is now on the process of bones knitting, incisions healing, muscles strengthening and the blasted inconvenience of having this boot on my foot.  But all of this will be a memory in a few weeks.  
I’m coming away from this experience recognizing anew that special people work in healthcare.  They deal with some issues that would likely make me retch. 

Patients can be angry, in pain; basically not at their most polite or accommodating.  And the need, no the requirement of the healthcare professional is to stay calm and comforting for the patient, whose journey can seem like a long dark alley. 

As someone whose focus is always on the technology, I can see how unimportant this is from the patient’s point-of-view. 

Calm, compassionate caring from people helped me much more than the digital images or the plate and screws that I now carry in my leg. 

I’m thankful that the technology is there and is used by knowledgeable professionals, but when your perspective is from the exam table, a comforting smile is a much appreciated right click.

Read 1068 times Last modified on Thursday, 12 December 2013 09:21
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