Sunday, May 15, 2016

Healthcare time vortex

Dr. Sri-Sheshadariprativadibayankaram has been trapped in an apparent healthcare time vortex as he continues to be forced to re-explain medical care to multiple family members who keep entering the room at staggered intervals.  “I don’t know what to do.  This is the eighth time I explained to the family about the patient’s illness.  Oh crap, here comes another family member!” said Dr. Sri-Sheshadariprativadibayankaram before ducking into the nearby nutrition pantry.

The helpless hospitalist’s rounds began otherwise normally, with an over 30-minute face-to-face nuanced discussion about the patient’s plan of care involving the patient’s husband, sister, and cousin.  “I mean, I put in the time.  I sat down and described everything very methodically to all the family members and made sure all of their questions were answered,” offered Dr. Sri-Sheshadariprativadibayankaram.  But things took a vexing turn for the worse when the doctor was about to walk out of the room.

“The patient’s spouse wanted me to explain everything again to the patient’s parents via speakerphone,” said Dr. Sri-Sheshadariprativadibayankaram.  “So I did it.  That took another 45 minutes.  They were pretty hard of hearing so I had to repeat things several times.”

And just as the fatigued physician stood up to start attending to his other patients, another family member (this time, the patient’s great uncle) stormed into the room demanding a thorough description of the patient’s health status, adding that “I’ve done my homework!” while confrontationally waving several pages of paper printed from WebMD.

“On and on it went,” recounted the worn-out doctor.  “I began to fear that I would perish due to malnutrition.  Thankfully the sweet nurse recognized that I was stuck in the healthcare time vortex and she slipped me graham crackers and peanut butter from the nursing station.  I nearly died.”

When Dr. Sri-Sheshadariprativadibayankaram started to emotionally break down and beg for the arrangement of a coordinated family conference, multiple relatives of the patient replied that it would be far too difficult to get such a large family together on the same page at the same time.

The hospitalist added, “This is worse than the time I was asked to contact a distant family member, available only by telephone after hours, to confirm brain death of a patient.  Or the time I was stuck on phone hold with an insurance company for several straight days.”

At press time, the doctor had finally emerged from the patient’s room before realizing that he was being paged overhead by the very same family, at which point he groaned while pivoting to reenter the room.
Coutesy of a colleague

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