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Restoring the Public’s Faith?

Posted Dec 23 2008 9:14pm
Heather Johnson a guest poster over at hospital impact has suggested that the general public has lost faith in the U.S. healthcare system and hospitals as a whole. She feels that the many issues that plague healthcare could be mitigated by improving one’s bedside manner and treating people as you would like to be treated. Her post further describes a large middle class gap where many if not most of us live finding it difficult to obtain the care we need mainly because of fiscal constraints.

"One of the biggest problems with the current state of health care is that middle-class people fall into the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Many lower middle-class people make just enough to not qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford health insurance. With the rising costs of hospital care and health care in general, these people are simply unable to afford to get the care they need."

“Getting back to the basic principle of treat everyone how you would like to be treated is the main focus here. A great bedside manner goes a long way, as does a smile. Taking time (even when it feels like there is none) to talk with patients and get to know them makes people feel better. People need to know that hospitals and health care professionals are not “out to get them.” A lot could be done for the hospital industry if people demonstrated a little compassion for those who are unable to pay right away as well.”


Many healthcare facilities are dealing with a wide range issues that dramatically affect their financial status. Several of these issue /variables are outside the control of hospitals – primary care provider shortages, nursing shortage, reimbursement inequities, to name only a few.

I suspect that Ms. Johnson has not spent much time in an acute care facility and experienced firsthand the general unpleasantness of much of the public when they come to the hospital. Many patients are rude and curt. Many of them complain because they feel that their sore throat is an emergency and they don’t understand why someone who is having chest pain gets into the emergency department before they do. Several patients lie and are looking for drugs.

Many patients I see every single day do not care why other people are at the hospital. Most patients just don’t want to have to wait to be seen. Patients do not understand the concept of triage. Patients that donate large sums of money to a hospital typically expect some sort of head of the line privileges when they come to the hospital and become very unpleasant when they find out that they are not given “special treatment”. In several instances patients are told that they will have to likely wait an hour to be seen in the emergency department which is a very short time and they become indignant.

If healthcare is to improve it is not going to be by healthcare providers putting on a smiley face like some flight attendant (no disrespect intended). Patients medical literacy needs to improve drastically, reimbursement practices have to change, there needs to be more incentives to draw people into the various healthcare fields that are understaffed (Primary Care, Gerontology, Nursing). Case in point – I know of a nurse who has committed hours and hours of her time, thousands of dollars of her income to obtain a PhD in nursing. She teaches at a city university and has to have a part time job to supplement her income. She works as a waitress part time. Incredulous doesn’t seem to come close.

I would respectfully disagree with you Ms. Johnson.

Certainly treating people with respect is noble and is what should be done, but when you have a healthcare system where the customers think and expect it to run like a deli counter it doesn’t get fixed by putting on a smile.

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