Periodically, it brings me comfort to return to my home base, and that is a place where not enough of my former peers have still journeyed. One of my more spiritual friends always stops my conversations by saying, “Nick, you need to let go, and ask to be directed to the place where you can do the most good.” She is talking about spirituality, believing in the universe, allowing destiny to present itself to you. Truthfully, I spend a lot of my time being frustrated, wondering why others can’t see the light regarding such simple issues as: Transparency, Kindness, Patient and Employee-centeredness.
Interestingly, the largest public health system, the U.S. Veterans Administration (which has 17,272 beds and 153 hospitals) began their journey of “change” about five years ago when several of their administrators first approached Planetree. I’ve been writing about, involved in, and literally living Planetree for decades now, and my passion for this philosophy of care has not waned. It is about humanizing the healthcare experience, being transparent, centering your focus on employees, staff, and patients in ways that have not been considered even before the United States universities produced more attorneys than physicians.
Unfortunately, our business-minded organizations continue to look upon kindness as weakness, upon transparency as stupidity, upon patient and employee centered activities as pandering, and the price that we pay because of this archaic thinking is very high for all of us.
So, why would the VA get involved? They “saw the light,” and the light was pretty darn bright. When you look at the statistics regarding infections, lengths of stay, litigation, and patient and employee satisfaction, there appears to be no decision. Of course we can achieve several of these “dashboard” goals by producing human widgets, by treating people like objects, by taking over entire geographies and making sure that no one has a choice about anything, and we can continue to rack up profits in the billions, but are we really doing our job?
The VA thought not and started their journey, hospital by hospital, toward a kinder, gentler world. Will they be successful with a culture bred out of military medicine? Can they change a system that has long since been openly criticized as broken? I think they can and they will, and with pending legislation that will permit our military and retired military personnel to “seek care where it is best delivered,” it will be interesting to see how well they do.
If you are in hospital administration and have little or no competition, ask yourself what would happen if your new competition allowed the patients to access their medical records; if loved ones were invited to stay and become part of care giving teams; if there was 24 hour a day 7 day a week visiting hours; if employees were always treated with diginty; respected, rewarded, and recognized for their work; if patients were always at the center of their own care?
Hopefully, someday, the masses will get it, and we will go from treating “organs” to treating people; we will focus on prevention not cleaning up train wrecks; we will embrace kindness, openness, transparency, healing and respect; and finally, we will acknowledge that the value of a human being is not based upon the value of his or her estate. When that happens your patients will be “Running to a hospital” …your hospital.