The Power of One
I read a recent first-hand account from an ER physician about her experience as a patient with disbelief, at first, and then with frustration. She had access to well-educated caretakers and a well-resourced facility, but suffered as the result of misdiagnosis and a distinct lack of patient-centric care delivery. Health care has been commoditized to the point that every “intervention” can be tracked and measured to determine whether it’s valuable for a patient. In the process, the equally vital element of humanity in health care is nearing extinction.
This doctor’s story is a reminder that patients have a vital and productive role to play in their care. And yet, for all the buzz about “patient-centered care,” the reality remains that unless an individual makes herself a pest or is lucky enough to have an advocate present, even the most educated and aware patient becomes the victim of inefficiency and detached neglect. Recent news about the years of neglect in the veteran’s health system is another example writ appallingly large. Growing obsession with metrics for value and “quality” are drawing resources and attention away from the “care” part of health. And with disastrous health outcomes.
In the midst of all the lofty debate (and more often arguing) about the cost of new technologies, drug A over treatment B, who should pay for insurance coverage and which hospital or physician offers the “best” care, we’re forgetting the fundamentals. Healthcare is a customer service. The patient is the customer. And, the first step toward a universal “culture of health” is simply, truly this: one person, offering one touch and taking one moment to ask “what do you need?”