Read the full October eNews & President’s Message.
Many of us have had our own brushes with the health care system, be it our own illness or through a family member. I have lived through such an experience recently through my father’s serious and very lengthy illness and hospital stay. Throughout his entire stay, the staff caring for my father have been phenomenal.
I, as the family member, have enjoyed a great deal of respect and engagement. So, it was with considerable surprise that I found all of it tarred with the experience of my father’s last day in hospital; the plan was for him to go to transition care. I called one morning, as I often did, to check on my father to see how he was doing. I was completely gobsmacked when I was told he had been discharged the day before to a completely different facility. Discharged without letting the family know? Further inquiries about this led to the reason being that “it was a chaotic day.”
On reflection, I realize that I am not alone in such an experience. Our health care system is broken. Many people (ourselves and patients) can attest to similar heart wrenching experiences. It is difficult to not to get angry when hearing about these stories. I was angry initially but am more deeply troubled about how our system continues to function with such gaps.
What can we do as family physicians to prevent such lapses in communication?
Do our own clinic systems and processes lead to failures of important communications with our own patients? If so, do we have ways of recognizing these lapses and resolving them? The doctor patient relationship is so central to family medicine and what it means to be a family physician. And in turn, central to this relationship is trust.
Our patients trust us to communicate openly and transparently with them, even if the news is bad or something they would really rather not hear. Our patients also trust us to involve family, at their wish and expressed consent, family who need to understand what is going on and need to be involved in plans of management.
I trust you, as family physicians, are doing what you can to be strong advocates for your patients. Advocacy is one of the CanMeds roles and we need to role model this and teach it to our learners. You are there for your patients to inform and educate, to help navigate a very complex health care system, to be leaned on, to offer guidance, or to just listen. But we cannot do it alone. It is a team effort to ensure continuity. We must have proper access to records and information on our patients. These principles of the Patient’s Medical Home need to continue to be the focus of our policy makers. And the ACFP will continue to advocate for this.
There will always be “chaotic days” to contend with. We must stay focused and ensure that our patients and their families are central to all actions and decisions within the system.