Why Healing Hospitals? Transparency. Human Dignity. Patient Advocacy. All of these represent a new way of administering health care in this country. Our industrialized model of care in the mirror image of factory-like settings is no longer acceptable, viable, or an alternative. We, as a country, as a society –as a culture, need to step up and do what is right. Love, kindness, nurturing, and a commitment to patient advocacy are the correct ways to interact with our patients.
Many organizations who embrace the various human dignity monikers such as Planetree and Eden Alternative do so for marketing clout, for positive press, or for hoped-for financial gains. Upon meeting some of these leaders, transparency becomes a very recognizable trait because they themselves are transparent –and not in the good sense. Rather, they are transparently “takers” in an environment that is much better served by “givers.”
For a country that is so obsessed with standardized tests, our healthcare delivery scores are abysmal, astonishing, and asinine. Not unlike our appetite for Biggie fast food meals and Biggie drinks, our appetite for beautiful trappings without substance, for corporate jets, for the power of millions and in some cases billions of dollars in reserves has resulted in a dysfunctional health delivery system that looks at patients as widgets.
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Op-Ed columnist has written another compelling article about the U.S. health system, in which he quotes the latest World Health Organization figures. (Download the .pdf file.) According to the WHO report, the United States ranks 37th in infant mortality (partly because of many premature births) and 34th in maternal mortality. A child in the U.S. is two-and-a-half times as likely to die by age 5 as in Singapore or Sweden, and an American woman is 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as a woman in Ireland. He then quoted another study, a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute that looked at how well 19 developed countries succeeded in avoiding “preventable deaths,” such as those where a disease could be cured or forestalled. The U.S. ranked in last place. Dead last.
He did find one health statistic that is strikingly above average: life expectancy for Americans who have already reached the age of 65. At that point, they can expect to live longer than the average in industrialized countries. That’s because Americans above age 65 actually have universal health care coverage: Medicare, he writes. Suddenly, a diverse population with pockets of poverty is no longer such a drawback.
Learning how to convert your hospital to the standards of Healing Hospitals is not rocket science. It is, however, not without tough decisions, aggressive doses of nonconformity, a passion and commitment to patient advocacy, and a strong desire to improve infection, readmission, restraint, and mortality rates. It can be done, but it takes guts, a break from the conventional, unconventional wisdom, and a willingness to do what is not only right …but also what is very, very smart.