Healthcare’s Epiphany — Empathy

by Cancergeek

Tweet via @DrIanWeissman on Jan 4, 2018

Earlier this week Dr. Ian Weissman shared the above tweet.

Dr. Weissman was sharing an article that was written for NPR’s Shots (health news) and the article was entitled, “Brush With Death Leads Doctor To Focus On Patient Perspective.” (by @mandrews110)

The article was highlighting the turn of the tide experience of Dr. Rana Awdish when she experienced a benign tumor in her liver that burst, and the journey she encountered through the industrial healthcare system.

My heart goes out to Dr. Awdish and for the experiences she encountered while temporarily being a patient instead of a physician.

I am thankful that her experience has led her to change her outlook, her perspective, and for splitting her time between caring for patients and leading retreats that help educate and train other physicians and healthcare staff on how to improve empathy and have difficult conversations.

I commend Dr. Awdish for sharing her experience in a book and speaking to other physicians and medical students.

I have to address the elephant in the room.

Why does it take a near death experience, of a physician, to remember our “why” of being a professional in healthcare?

Why is it that when a physician writes a book on the importance of being seen as an individual in healthcare, has an interview published, or speaks at a conference on the same topic everyone stops, listens, applauds, and broadcasts this as a major medical revelation?

I am a dumbfounded.

On a daily basis medical students, nurses, technicians, ancillary staff, hospital administrators, and physicians are surrounded by patients.

You have to work harder to find a place within a hospital or clinic that does not have any patients than you do to find a spot filled with patients.

The stories are all around us.

A mother having to deal with a medical bill and a new pre-authorization for her child's appointment.

A grandmother having to pay her co-pay before seeing her physician.

A father waiting to speak with a physician about his son’s sudden collapse while playing football. Waiting to hear if his son is okay.

A young man coming back in to see if someone can give him the results of his lab work and imaging results after 5 days of waiting at home to hear if he really has cancer or not.

A wife trying to understand if her husband can still take his blood pressure medication while being treated for depression and preparing for a hip replacement.

The above situations are not a single occurrence.

They happen every single day.

In hospitals. In clinics. In your organization. In my city. In your city. In your state. All throughout the United States. Across the globe.

All we need to do is take the time to step out of the dark and into the light.

To take the time to talk to a patient.

To listen. To understand. To see the world through their context, not ours.

To realize that even Dr. Awdish had an advantage.

The advantage of knowing the language, the process, the technology, the network, and how to “hack” the system to meet her needs and expectations.

She was an insider.

The majority of patients that trust for us to care for them are outsiders.

People with little knowledge (sometimes none) of medicine and how healthcare could work when done properly.

Yet we stop and take notice of Dr. Awdish and her healthcare epiphany — empathy.

If I have said it once, I have said it hundreds of times…

“Without me, there is no medicine.” (me — dicine)

We need to remember the universe that makes up healthcare: people as patients.

The healthcare universe doesn’t exist for physicians.

The healthcare universe exists for people who need care at various points in their journey through life.

A journey that begins at conception and continues through to death. A journey that has ups and downs and multiple transitions based on the context of life.

A journey that has different expectations for different diagnosis and ailments that are different for each individual person as a patient.

These are the stories that we need to elevate. These are the people we need to write books, speak at conferences, lead staff retreats, and educate our physicians.

These are the stories we need to broadcast.

The stories of our everyday people as patients.

Stories that we can listen, understand and deliver at the N of 1.

As always feel free to email me at cancergeek@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram as @cancergeek

~Cancergeek