A few years ago, I wrote the piece “Love: A measurable, actionable solution to healthcare“.
This piece was based on the learnings from a visit with my 94-year-old Mémère.
My Mémère has passed away now and this past Thanksgiving we were reminiscing about her. (We being my aunt (Mémère’s oldest daughter) and I).
And my Aunt shared the following relative to one of Mémère’s last healthcare encounters prior to her passing.
“Tom, we went to have some lab work done and the usual fellow who took care of mom [aka Mémère] was not available. This other man was. And when mom got up to where he was situated, he never looked up. He didn’t acknowledge her. He made no eye contact. He didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t in any way try to comfort mom. In fact, all he did was say (in a very curt tone mind you), ‘Spell Last Name’! And Tommy, you know your grandmother. So she said, ‘L-A-S-T–space–N-A-M-E'”.
“And did he laugh, Tom? Did Mom’s response awaken him to his lack of courtesy and caring? No. In fact, his response of ‘so we have a comedian’ was shared with even more disdain and just plain meanness.”
“Why would we behave like that, Tom?”
At this point, my aunt and I discussed her question for a bit. We discussed it from a system (broken system) perspective. We discussed it from an individual perspective. We discussed it placing blame and not. We looked through many lenses as we processed this fellow’s ‘why’.
And eventually my aunt added …
“And you know what mom said to me at that point? She said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ And we never went back. Tommy, mom never got the care she needed.”
Acceptable? Hardly. This is a patient safety issue (patient harm issue) we don’t usually hear about.
We as healthcare leaders must own this.
First we must create systems where those who provide the care to our patients and families do so with both heart and mind. (And by the way financial incentives for someone to care do not work).
We must leverage peer and behavioral interviewing protocols led by our high achievers (those who live our values) for every hire. We must hire only those who we believe will live, epitomize, and honor our mission and values.
We must hold people accountable for their behaviors. Our values must not only reside on our walls. They must be alive in our hearts and our actions.
We must listen to the stories of our patients and their families. Mémère did not receive the care she needed because she did not receive the caring she (and we all) deserve.
And most importantly, we must live and honor our values in all we do. Every moment and every day. In doing so, we will be honoring all those we lead and serve.
Many talk of improving access to care. And yes it is very important.
Together let’s take it even further and really innovate healthcare …
Let’s improve access to caring. Yes! To healthCARING.