I was reading some edition of Reader’s Digest while at the laundromat yesterday. It was really interesting but a bit on the depressing side. It interviewed doctors and nurses about their mistakes that they’ve made while practicing medicine. You know, like not catching tell-tale signs of serious illnesses only to have the patient return to the hospital a day later and not make it, or other mistakes they’ve made and have to live with. I won’t depress you with the details because that is not my point.
My soap box for the day is the common theme that most, if not all, of these doctors were expressing in their attempts to explain how it happened: “I was feeling pressure from the hospital to get through more patients.” or “We were running out of beds so we were trying to move patients through as quickly as possible.” or “This happened near the end of my 36 hour shift.”
Dear President Obama,
You are working on reforming our health care system. I agree that many changes DO need to be made, although don’t agree with many of your proposals. Here are some suggestions. Unfortunately, I don’t understand the system and therefore can’t give you an economical and useful plan of how to carry these out, but the following are some ideas for you to think about.
1) The ER is getting jam packed. Problem: What do you do when you have a health problem that you know is not life or death but the nurse on the phone advises you to seek medical attention right away… but wait! It’s Friday night. Urgent care and regular doctor offices are closed for the weekend. Do you wait until Monday??? No… you go to the ER.
I propose that more clinics and urgent health care be opened during the nights and weekends. It would be like having two ER’s. There’s the ER at the hospital for those moments you think you are dying or need some SERIOUS medical attention. And then there are the clinics that can help take care of broken limbs, blood testing, minor weekend setbacks, nosebleeds, ect. They can be close to each other so that if a minor problem does turn into a serious one, the patient can be quickly transferred.
2) Doctor and nurses are frequently working over 12 hour shifts extending into 36 hour shifts. Excuse me for saying, but I do not want a doctor working on me who has been up all hours of the night and is probably on a huge coffee binge. These are not healthy hours to keep so how are we expecting our doctors to not make tiny, but very costly, mistakes every now and again since studies have shown that sleep deprivation is very similar to being drunk in reaction times and problem solving skills. Are too many hospitals understaffed? Or what is the problem?
I propose you fix this. Provide more support for people to become nurses. Support more students through medical school. If our nation is getting more sick… then by golly, provide more health support. Again, I don’t know the system and I don’t know how to fix it. But if you want fewer mistakes and more patients getting better health care, reduce the amount of sleep deprived doctors on the floor.
3) In this same issue of Reader’s Digest, they showed chart comparison. One was showing your dietary guidelines: You know, the one that says to eat more vegetables and fruit than meat? Interestingly enough, the other chart showed where your financial support was going to answer the question to why a Big Mac is cheaper than a meal full of fresh veggies. Would you like to know why? Because over 70% of your food funding is being given to the dairy and meat industry. Those are near the top of the pyramaid!!!
I propose you start helping out more farmers dealing with our produce. If you truly want a healthier nation, than make it more economically feasible to eat healthy than simply grabbing the over processed junk food at the grocery store or from a near-by fast food joint because the poor man’s budget doesn’t allow for more. Prove your sincerity in reducing childhood obesity by reducing the prices of vegetables and fruits even if it means raising the prices of processed food.
4) I have a friend who is a nurse who constantly laments that she doesn’t have time to care for each patient. She tries so hard everyday to keep these patients as individuals instead of charts, but she can’t always do it because she has too many patients on her plate. Although, I think she is awesome for all the times she finds time to fit it in anyway. (Love you, Becca!)
I propose staffing non-medical people in the hospital. They can act as many volunteers do in hospitals. They can take patients out on a walk, read them stories, paint their finger nails, report sport statistics, ect. You wouldn’t have to pay them like a medical personnel. You could even do minimum wage for all I care. But think of the morale boost and rising recovery rates if these patients felt like they had someone who cared. If you can’t find a way to lower the nurse:patient and/or doctor:patient ratio, then bring some people in to do the job that doesn’t require a degree. And the big BONUS to this proposal is that you’ll be able to provide more jobs to Americans. That’s also on your agenda, right? Two birds… one stone.
5) When I make an appointment in advance concerning a medical problem, I expect to be given my proper amount of time.
I propose that every office follows the following procedure: If you are running behind and do not feel that you will be able to provide me with a full and attentive visit, please offer me the option of either taking the shorter appointment or making another appointment a different day. Chances are I will prefer to schedule another day and you’ve just freed up your schedule for everyone else. Maybe you could add an incentive as an apology, like, “Sorry we had to reschedule your appointment but we’ll waive your $20 co-pay to make up for it.” Airlines offer incentives for delays ALL THE TIME! Why not at the doctor’s office?
There are so many more problems but I just lost my hyper focus on this subject so I’m going to have to close the letter.
- CLINICS FILLING HOSP GAP But care centers can’t replace ERs, state sez (nydailynews.com)
- San Francisco health clinic to care for uninsured (sfgate.com)