The opposite of patient-focused? A cautionary tale for healthcare and other businesses alike.

Photo Credit: onsizzle.com

Our company, medASTUTE, from its inception has championed a more collaborative approach to healthcare.  Not only do we want to drive down waste and inefficiency, but we want to help people to be healthier by being more informed and active “consumers.”  This is known in the industry as “Healthcare Literacy”.  But it’s NOT all on the patients.  Healthcare providers must also do their part, they’re not selling tools like Home Depot. We “consumers” count on our doctors and nurses to provide us with specific and timely guidance on our situations.

Recently, a family member’s diabetes progressed to the point where she needed more help than oral medications could provide.  Her doctor prescribed insulin and called in a prescription.  That sounds good right?  I mean, I just got done saying healthcare providers should give specific guidance, didn’t I?  Yes, but in this example, the doctor (and her staff) completely botched what could have been a chance to help a patient thru a (somewhat) scary transition and to cement a trusting relationship.

Insulin, for those of you who have only seen it in movies, is a live-extending substance for diabetics.  It is NOT like aspirin.  Insulin must be injected just below the skin (subcutaneously) and because it requires giving yourself an injection, it requires more training than simply telling a patient “Go pick-up your prescription.”

Here’s what happened.

She was told to pick up her insulin and come to the office.  There, a nurse gave the shortest training I’ve ever heard of.  My relative was told “You just screw-on this needle and give yourself the injection. You can find some great videos on-line to show you how it’s done.” (almost word for word).  In this case, the patient said that wasn’t good enough and demanded a demonstration.  The nurse went back over the (brief) procedure, which would have been all I would have needed.

I’ve been giving myself insulin injections every day for about 10 years!  But for a first-timer?  Nah, that doesn’t cut it.  And telling any “customer” (patient or client or even retail customer) that if they have questions they shouldn’t bother the person standing in front of them but instead go search for videos on the internet?

Completely unacceptable.

Here’s what SHOULD have happened.

The doctor or clinic owners (supposedly specializing in treating elderly Medicare patients) should have asked “Have you ever given yourself injected medicine?  Even if you have, I’d be happy to take some time to give you a refresher on proper procedure and make sure you are confident that you can do it on your own.”

Maybe even throw in some “good customer service” like “Your doctor believes this medication, if used properly, will help you and we really want to make sure you’re successful.  I’ve got this orange (or another item) that we can practice on.“

Or maybe “Oh, you’ve never given yourself a shot and you’re a little nervous about needles?  Don’t worry, most people don’t like needles, but these insulin needles are smaller than a human hair and you probably won’t even feel it.  Here, let me show you….”

Healthcare is a business built on trust too!

This scenario is about needles and injecting something that movies and popular entertainment have built-up to be a potentially lethal activity.  How many times have you seen a plot where someone accidentally takes too much insulin (or some villain forces them to take it, like in “The Accountant”)?  This was an opportunity for compassion and to develop trust between patient and clinician.  What it turned into was a SUPER dissatisfied “customer” who will tell everyone she meets how she was mistreated and immediately started shopping for a new healthcare provider.

Trust, once lost, can be impossible to restore.  And, who among you would seek-out a physician-practice if one of your friends told stories about how, instead of care, they were told to go look it up on the internet?

Seriously?

Why am I in your office if all I need is to “look it up?”

Why did you go to medical school if the only value you can provide is to tell people to go to YouTube?

Do you really deserve to be paid nursing wages for that kind of advice?  I bet I could find kids in kindergarten who could dispense that level of medical advice.

Too Long/Didn’t Read:

Hey doctor!

Whether or not you like it, you are now in the BUSINESS of healthcare.  You are personally and financially responsible for making sure your practice maintains good working relationships with your patients.  Unless you’re in some rural backwater where people literally have no choice, you need to be perceived as providing a valuable service.

If your staff, be they nurses or stock-clerks in the Home Depot, are telling people “Don’t bother me, go find help from the internet.” well…you deserve the financial ruin you’re going to receive.

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