A friend, an accomplished and respected Hospital CEO, has seen health care from the other side. Recently, a beloved family member died. He took early retirement so that he and his wife could offer full support.
This heart wrenching ordeal offered him a unique perspective on what healthcare in the US has become — a business model that is more focused on policy, process and reimbursement with less attention to how all of these “smart” business decisions impact the patient and family members. Prices and policy got in the way of making it personal.
A highly successful CEO came to healthcare leadership after spending much of his early life in hospitals as a chronically ill teenager, sometimes not knowing whether he would live or die. He spent much of his career talking about putting the patients first, about treating them as a beloved family member. During his tenure, his hospital’s quality and safety numbers soared. He made it personal.
A respected healthcare consultant, someone who lived his values, lost his wife, the victim of repeated medication and standard of care errors. He was stunned by the inefficiency of the delivery system — that the policies and procedures designed to prevent catastrophic breakdowns, actually led to the environment in which his wife, his best friend, fell victim. He travels around speaking to healthcare groups, trying to make these mistakes and needless loss of life personal.
The grandmother, scheduled for discharge, fell during the night. She never recovered. The hospital was more concerned about lawsuits and risk management than ensuring it never happened again.
Bad things happen. Good compassionate care givers make mistakes. Things go wrong, even in the best of hospitals. I get all that.
What I don’t get is how we arrived at a point where business processes all too often have become more important than the patient. I also get that healthcare in the US is way too expensive when compared to all other modern industrialized nations and, on average, the results/outcomes for US patients do not equate to the high costs.
Why is our profession not more outraged at what has become of our industry?
This is not a political or policy problem. It is a personal problem. We should all try to make this more personal, and less about making Wall Street happy.
Financial analysts and investors may think that I am a Pollyanna for my steadfast belief that patient care, safety and compassion for the family is more important than an unrelenting, unforgiving focus solely on sterling business results – meaning profits, but I have made it personal.
© 2020 John Gregory Self