#Weekend Wisdom

I’ve never been a reader but recently, I’ve come to enjoy it. This is something that I read and wanted to share since it was something I took to heart.

“Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear. So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to do list will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories that live in those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.

We have the best talks

When it comes to patient outcomes it’s not a question of the most advanced technology that provides the best care; It boils down to communication.  At its most fundamental level the physician/patient relationship is about the interaction and what is expressed and what is understood.  

Oftentimes I will see medical practices marketing body scans and advanced blood work. While it is exciting to think of a Star Trek type of practice where one is simply scanned and all health concerns are known we simply aren’t there yet.  These body scans and extra blood work have never been proven to increase health in any way. Having an open dialogue with patients and allowing patients the time to tell their story is the best way to improve patient outcomes.  There is an old adage in medical training:  “90% of the diagnosis is the story.”  If a provider doesn’t listen to the story then getting it right is that much harder.

It is estimated that up to 40% of hospital admissions could be avoided by better communication between the physician, the care team and the patient.  It is distressing to think of all the suffering and needless waste of money that could be avoided by simply listening.  By understanding patient concerns and getting feedback on medications and symptoms providers are better able to preempt healthcare deteriorations that land patients in hospitals.

Every provider has a different style, but I typically start out appointments by asking patients about what brings them into the doctor. I know the sorts of things that I want to address to keep them healthy: preventative measures, immunizations, blood work, etc.  These are the issues that I want to address, but oftentimes you cannot get there until you address that nagging shoulder pain or other complaint that the patient has. From a patient standpoint, if you can’t take the time to deal with an ache or pain why bother dealing with an abstract issue such as cholesterol or hypertension.

At the end of every visit I review the plan and ask patients if there any questions. Sometimes I think we are communicating and in reality we just aren’t. I try as often as possible to make sure that I’m on the same page as my patients.  On top of the willingness to communicate from staff and clinicians, there needs to be a general openness. If patients feel that they are being judged or that they are being pressured for time they’re less likely to tell a physician important information.  

Sometimes questions come up after the visit has ended. Every patient has access to me via email and every email is responded to within a 24 hour period.  By keeping  messages in the patient’s own words it reduces the likelihood that information is lost in translation from staff to the physician.

Sometimes practices change over time and with the pressure to comply with government regulations and insurance demands the one-on-one that providers enjoy with their patients falls to the wayside.  We have engineered our processes so that this doesn’t happen, even as we continue to grow.  Communication is a core belief in our practice, and with such a small price and such a great reward it will always be front and center.