Friday, July 27, 2012

Hospitals are Bad for Your Health

My nephew had a spot of bad luck lately.  While riding his cycle, he attempted to take out some lady's windshield with his body.  He succeeded and the results were most unattractive.  Fortunately he's alive and not at all hideously disfigured.  He was taken to the local trauma center for the county, where they have taken great care of him.  If he ever wonders how people feel about him, he needs only to discover the flood of people in the waiting room the night of the accident.  Even the hospital employees were impressed.

Mrs. leftystrat went to visit her nephew the other day and liked the place so much, she decided to stay a while.  Somebody noticed her getting wobbly and they gave her a free ride to the emergency room.  Two event-filled days later, she was discharged with no idea what happened.  The doctors were clueless and the discharge summary was riddled with errors and inconsistencies.

This was the same hospital.

We have a genuine healthcare crisis- this is no secret.  It's badly broken and waiting for collapse.  Meanwhile we pay and pay (recurring theme, regardless of industry).  I have some suggestions for hospitals, doctors, and patients to make things more efficient, hopefully resulting in less cost.


  • Talk to the patient.  Explain things concisely.  Be sure they understand.  Don't talk down.
  • When you transfer a patient, WRITE THINGS DOWN.  COMMUNICATE.  The new unit will then know what happened and can treat the patient accordingly.
  • Don't be an ass - the situation is tough enough already.
  • Don't give canned/useless answers.  The patient is (hopefully) not an idiot.
  • "What's the matter?" is not a confidence-inspiring question to ask family.
  • When you are told the information is in the chart, don't tell the patient it isn't or you don't have it.
  • Outside doctors prescribed meds for the patient: you should dispense them.  If you have a problem, contact the prescribing doctor - don't ignore the situation.
  • Every action should not involve six hours of waiting for a doctor or paperwork.


  • Question everything.
  • If you are not satisfied with an answer, ask again until you are.
  • If the person you ask can't provide an answer, ask for someone who can.
  • Hold staff to promises or deadlines.
  • Question everything.
  • Follow up.  If you didn't get the test results, make a call.
  • If you aren't able, have a spouse, friend or family member act as your advocate.
  • Keep all of your vital information up to date for you and your advocate.
  • Question everything.

Things have changed drastically over the years.  People used to consider doctors infallible and unquestionable.  That might have worked before HMOs but now it's a recipe for bad health.  Many doctors and staff are horribly overworked and might miss something important.  Your health is YOUR responsibility - ignore it at your own peril.

If you are a passive patient, things will just happen to you.  You could stay in the hospital days longer than necessary.  Your care may be substandard.  You may receive unwanted, painful procedures that aren't necessary.  You may get the wrong meds or insufficient meds.  Know your meds and all important information.  Write it down. 

Example: My wife spent a day at the mercy of the hospital, largely getting nowhere.  The following day she started asking questions and taking down names.  The care improved exponentially and she was discharged by noon.  Even the head nurse complimented her on her ability to advocate for herself and make things happen.  Things happened for her on her schedule, not the doctors'.  This was all because she acted, even though great care should be standard.

Do you want to be a passive patient or do you want good healthcare?

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