Patient Experience

Should We Really Focus on “Patient-Centered” Care?

“Patient-centered care implies that the patient is always right and that their opinion should win out over the physician’s opinion.” I read that quote from Dr. Katie Neuendorf in a recent article in The Hospitalist, and it resonated with me right away. In the article, Dr. Neuendorf explains that patient-centered care should really be “relationship-centered care,” which means that the relationship should be prioritized, even when there is disagreement in the plan of care. In this scenario, she pointed out that she can support the patient and still not prescribe a treatment that she feels is inappropriate. This is brilliant and beautiful. We know, as numerous articles have shown us, that giving patients what they want is not necessarily good for them. Patients with the highest satisfaction scores also have the highest mortality ratings. This is thought to be because patients may be asking for interventions, tests or prescription drugs…

You Have Lowered Length of Stay. Congratulations. You’re Fired.

For several decades, providers working within hospitals have had incentives to reduce stay durations and keep patient flow tip-top. DRG-based and capitated payments expedited that shift. Accompanying the change, physicians became more aware of the potential repercussions of sicker and quicker discharges. They began to monitor their care and as best as possible, use what measures they could ascertain as a proxy for quality (readmissions and hospital acquired conditions). Providers balanced the harms of a continued stay over the benefits of added days, not to mention the need for cost savings. However, the narrow focus on the hospital stay, the first three to seven days of illness, distracted us from the out weeks after discharge. With the acceleration of inpatient episodes, we cast patients to post-acute settings unprepared for the hardship they would face. By the latter, I mean, frailty risk, more reliance on others for help, and a greater need…

Wrongful Life

There have been recent discussions in the lay media about a growing trend of litigation cases focused not on the “right to live”, but rather on the “right to die”. These cases have involved patients who received aggressive treatment, despite having documentation of their wishes not to receive such aggressive treatment. Although unsettling, it is not surprising that this issue has arisen, given the national conversations about the exorbitant cost of care at the end of life in the U.S., and the frequency with which patients do not receive end of life care that is concordant with their wishes. These conversations have spurned providers and patients to discuss and document their wishes, via advanced care directives and/or POLST orders (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). There is now even a national day devoted to advanced care decision making (National Healthcare Decisions Day). While these documents are increasingly available for hospitalists…

It’s Time for a Buzz Cut

I sometimes joke that hospitalists are the medicine version of the mullet haircut – you know, all business in "the front" (i.e. the patient care area) and all party in "the back" (i.e. the work room). In "the back", the usual scenario is to complain and moan about our frequent flyers, our drug seekers, our many unsaveable patients, the incredible situations ("He put a nail where??), with good-natured but somewhat bitter truculence about sharing duties with housestaff and general whining about hospital leadership. Generally, as long as these semi-inappropriate conversations and remarks were kept "backstage", and our demeanor was professional "onstage", I felt it was harmless. You know, gallows humor. A coping mechanism. And often entertaining. But there was always a part of me that wondered if these "backstage" conversations were having a more corrosive impact on communication with our patients. Does it normalize a negative judgement about patients if…

How Often Do You Ask This (Ineffective) Question?

How often do we get complacent with knowledge?  We hear the same thing over and over, and the message becomes lore.  Drink eight ounces of water per day or turkey makes you drowsy—not only do we as docs believe it but we tell family members and patients the same. I came across a new study in CMAJ that fractures another piece of lore we hold fast. And not only should this study put the kibosh on it, but also upends a practice (a patient question) that teachers from eons past have instructed us to use over and over and over.  The question has intuitive appeal, is easy to gestalt, and has a universal understanding.  Non-physicians and laypeople can grasp what the answer implies without any difficulty.  (more…)
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