Blog | Monday, June 26, 2017

Why patients may be disappointed with hospital stays and doctors

Illness is a disappointing and frustrating time. Nothing could be worse than a sickness which suddenly jolts you out of your daily routine, and forces you to confront a harsh new reality. That's something that physicians should always remember as they go about their hectic work days. Doctors see patients at extremely low points in their lives.

The vast majority of physicians, and indeed all other health care professionals, are among the most dedicated professionals you could ever encounter. Health care attracts a certain type of personality, and they are also the most caring and kindest people as well. Nevertheless, we work within a system of finite resources and very stringent regulations. Here are some reasons why you might be disappointed with your hospitalization:
1. You are not as comfortable as you could have been

We all know from when we are very young, that one of the most basic things we need for healing is a decent rest. The reality is that hospitals are very busy places that can be a little “rough and tumble”. Noisy machines, other patients, and uncomfortable beds—there may be plenty of reasons why you cannot get a good rest!
2. You have no idea what's going on

During your short hospitalization, you may be seen by dozens of different physicians and suffer with what I call: “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen Syndrome.” You seem to be getting mixed messages from all of them, and everything is just oh so confusing.
3. Lack of clinical time

All you want is just some decent face time with your doctor and nurse. Why are they so rushed? And why do they annoyingly keep turning around and looking at their computer instead of making eye contact?!
4. When is that test happening?

You have been told you are having a test, and have been left not eating (“NPO”). You are hungry and irritable, but have been given an 8-hour window for the test: “The test may happen anytime between 9 and 5, we don't know yet”. Too much waiting around! Can the hospital not at least give you a smaller time window?
5. My rushed discharge

After your long illness, when you have finally got to a stage where you can be discharged, why the huge rush that feels like you are being pushed out the door? You had some important questions and wanted to make sure you had all the right follow-up in place. This left you with a bit of a sour taste in your mouth. Moreover, you were given a tatty computer generated print out that was written in incomprehensible medical terminology you didn't understand

The above have unfortunately happened because of deep-rooted systems issues that are difficult to fix. We also haven't yet mentioned the bill you receive, any controversy over whether you are “inpatient” or “outpatient”, or trouble you may have scheduling a timely primary care follow-up—which are whole other major topics.

Being unhappy because of any of the above is not so much the fault of your hospital or physician, who are probably trying their very best within the constraints and limitations of the current typical system. Sorry you were disappointed. What you can do is give relentless feedback if you ever experience any of the above. Everyone in health care needs to keep hearing it.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care. This post originally appeared at his blog.