Isn't it appropriate that after 7hrs of flying and a 1.5hr windy car ride I find myself in Telluride, CO at an elevation of over 10,000ft to spend a week participating in the 8th Annual Telluride Interdisciplinary Patient Safety Roundtable?
My third year of medical school has been nothing short of transformative. While my classmates and I have grown tremendously in translating our theoretical knowledge into clinical skills, what has also grown is an increasing awareness of the plight of our patients. Many of our patients are already in a vulnerable position given their medical conditions. What does the health care system do to help them regain their health? We force them to navigate the rough seas of a fragmented health care system.
Out of frustration for one of my patient's experiences while on my Family Medicine clerkship, I wrote this welcome message that satirizes the typical patient experience in our current system:
Welcome aboard the US Health Care Cruise Line! Please take your time to explore all of the great features we have to offer on our entertainment Decks to take care of all of your medical needs, whether you need them or not! Here, our motto is “more is better,” so take this opportunity now to indulge away!
First, a brief message to our VIP guests: As the group of people with multiple health and social needs that are the true drivers of high health care costs, welcome! As you navigate this beautiful vessel outfitted with the latest most expensive technology and drugs, please keep the following in mind:
With these simple rules, I can guarantee that you will feel so overwhelmed by our top notch services that you will be wondering, “was it all really worth it?” Again, welcome aboard and enjoy your stay!
Despite sporadic episodes of safe, effective, patient-centered, efficient, timely, and equal care throughout my third year, our inconsistent ability to deliver high quality care has left me almost hopeless for the future of health care. But, what has reenergized my spirits was reading the book Why Hospitals Should Fly written by John Nance, a professional pilot and lawyer with a distinguished career in leading the patient safety movement. The book is a fictional narrative that follows a former CEO of a hospital, Dr. Will Jenkins, as he travels to a suburb of Denver, CO to visit the fictional St. Michael's Memorial Hospital. St. Michael's is THE ideal hospital that exudes quality not only in its basic processes and operations, but also in its culture. As Dr. Jenkins visits various departments in the hospital, the reader not only learns about the effectiveness of specific interventions to improve safety (i.e. multidisciplinary rounds, team huddles, checklists, etc.), but also indirectly gains insight to the process of implementation (probably the most difficult part of patient safety work).
When I finished reading the book, I felt like my head had been lifted up from the chaos of our current broken system. My head is now 10,000ft above sea level, the same elevation where aircraft passengers can safely use their electronic devices. While I'm forced to drink liters of water a day to ward off acute mountain sickness, perhaps it is necessary for me to be at the level where airplanes fly in order to better understand how to redesign our health care system to achieve high quality care. That is probably the reason why we are all here at Telluride, CO.
Stay tuned throughout this week as we dissect some of our health care system's greatest challenges. You can follow our thoughts here and on Twitter (#TPSER8). You can also take a look at Paul Levy's experience here at Telluride on his blog. Here's to a strong take-off tomorrow!