Telluride Day One

As I reflect back on today, what struck me the most was the video we watched covering the tragic case of Lewis Blackman. This will likely always stay with me because I met Helen, Lewis’s mother. As she shared his life and legacy with our group, I could feel the raw emotion and pain that she had endured. No one should have to experience what she did. The tragedy is that I could see this happening again. Too often healthcare providers dismiss our patients – I was shocked and upset to learn that a nurse had rolled her eyes at Helen when she explained her concerns. Are patients ever wrong? NO! This is so obvious to me, but a lot of healthcare providers clearly don’t agree. Even if patients may not be correct in the medical sense, this is due to a lack of clear, concise patient education on the part of the healthcare providers. No one took the time to introduce themselves, to explain the process, to ask for feedback, or to engage the family at any level. That translates into no one validating their concerns, expressing genuine empathy for his deterioration, or treating him more than “just another patient.” We have to WAKE-UP and remember that patients are at the CENTER of what we do. I’ll admit I was angry at the end of the video, because communication is the cornerstone of how I treat every patient. The number one rule in communication is to know your audience and that was clearly missed here. The audacity of a healthcare provider rolling eyes at a patient is sickening. As we discussed, communication should be on-going and continuous, not based on an acute worsening of symptomatology as was the case presented. Additionally, why aren’t providers asking for feedback? We are in a service-industry after all – you can’t assume that you are providing top-quality care unless you ask for feedback to make sure you are meeting your patients’ expectations. This is the most fundamental step in building a physician-patient alliance and yet it was missed over and over and over again. While I was saddened to learn about this tragedy, I was grateful to be in a cohort of like-minded individuals. I  am hopeful that in the future we can work together to create a better model for healthcare, one in which we are continually striving for improvement. I am eternally grateful to Helen for sharing her experience – what an incredibly courageous, inspiring individual; she embodies true strength and courage and her experience will forever change the healthcare landscape and I’ll make sure of that!

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