Support patients emotionally to foster full recovery

Guest post by Thomas Dahlborg, chief financial officer and vice president of strategy for NICHQ (National Institute for Children's Health Quality)

An incredibly special person recently came into my life. She is kind, heart-centered, smart and caring. For this blog post I will refer to her as Hope.

Over the last number of weeks, Hope and I shared a lot of time together and developed a relationship and trust. In so doing, we shared many stories.

One recent story Hope shared truly caught my attention, as it aligns so well with some of my previous Hospital Impact blog posts. Unfortunately not the recent "Kindness, humanity are best healthcare business solutions" but rather with "More firsthand symptoms of a broken healthcare system." And yet this story from Hope can serve as a lesson for us all as we seek to truly engage and honor patients and improve the care we provide and the health of our patients, families and communities.

"I don't remember exactly when I started feeling something was wrong. I know the symptoms [included] worsening headaches, bouts of dizziness, and tingling and numbness in my leg. Each appointment over the course of several weeks (and there were many) my doctor told me it was the flu, migraines, allergies or such. I never felt like she heard me.

I began journaling my symptoms to help process and to document. I shared them with my doctor and asked her for a referral to a neurologist and an MRI. Her response? 'I'll approve the MRI but if it comes back normal you need to let this go.' It wasn't just that she didn't hear me. It was the tone of voice, the manner in which she dismissed me."

Soon Hope had her MRI with the support of her mom holding her foot and providing a lifeline that to date, her caregivers and the system had not.

That evening Hope received a call from a doctor she did not know. This physician shared everything Hope could possibly want to know--if Hope was a medical student. They were cold, calculated, data and facts. Then he said: "You might have an aneurysm."

He did not ensure Hope understood what he said, he did not empathize, he did not ask, "Are you okay? How can I best be of support to you? What do you need?"

>> Read the full commentary at Hospital Impact