Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, has put together a fantastic Grand Rounds this week. His edition is titled “when things go awry” and he asked medical providers and patients to tell their stories of medical mistakes and lessons learned. It speaks volumes to his skills as a hospital CEO that he chose this topic as the theme, and I’m glad he gave so many doctors and patients an opportunity to share their stories.
Over the years since my father was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis and kidney failure, my family has seen our fair share of medical mistakes. My father has been treated at several hospitals in Colorado, and has been under the care of numerous nephrologists, rheumatologists, and GPs. Some have been excellent, working in tandem with my parents to manage my dad’s health. And some have been little more than medical dictators, directing the show without regard for input from my parents.
In reading through Grand Rounds, I was struck by how often people mentioned the importance of sincerely listening to patients. Duncan Cross brings up this point, along with several of the non-blogging patients and family members who recounted their harrowing tales of medical mishap.
I believe that most people who become medical providers do so out of a genuine desire to help people. But then they get caught up in paperwork, health insurance regulations, overcrowding and under-staffing, malpractice litigation fears, and a whole range of other things that don’t really have anything to do with providing care. Of course mistakes will happen. But a doctor who takes time to listen, speaks to patients with respect, and apologizes sincerely when mistakes occur will likely have better outcomes and much more satisfied patients.