Archive for the ‘Hospitals’ Category

Service of White Coat Syndrome: Hooray for the NYU Langone Emergency Room

Monday, March 25th, 2024

Some of the Peanuts gifts I’ve received–and love. The socks made it into this post.

I have a thing about pickles—they must come from a barrel and never a jar. I love the Peanuts gang, and I am petrified of—though grateful for—doctors and all things medical. You know this if you know me.

I flew in the air and crashed down on the sidewalk last week and for the next three days watched my foot increasingly resemble a blue balloon as the swelling from ankle on down began to hide my toes. Friends pleaded with me to get an Xray or to do something. I kept thinking that home remedies like ice, Arnica, Tylenol and leg-in-the-air under pillows would improve things, but they didn’t.

On Sunday morning I was horrified by what I saw. [I couldn’t look at my skinned other knee.] I called my friend DK, who dropped everything—she had plans–to come to my rescue. As luck would have it, we couldn’t get to an Urgent Care office for an Xray because of a mini marathon that had overtaken my neighborhood. So, we walked/hobbled, to the NYU Langone emergency room about six blocks away.

An emergency room visit for me has been my worst nightmare. My heart was beating so hard that the staff taking my vitals gave me an electrocardiogram. They were darling, patient and kind. One lowered his voice when I mentioned white coat syndrome and said, “Relax! We’re not doctors!” And they kept telling me, “Take deep breaths.”

I won’t put you to sleep with too many more details because I will resemble a grandmother boasting for 10 minutes about her three-month-old grandbaby, a future Yale graduate for sure, who smiled at her for the first time.

The emergency room experience was nothing like what I expected. In the waiting room there were no patients dripping with blood or passing out from fever. I hardly sat down before the admitting process started. Waiting for my Xray, after I met the Emergency Room doctor whom I liked, one nurse advised me how long he thought the wait would be. He subsequently brought me a blanket because it was freezing. A volunteer dropped by and asked if I needed anything. Nobody so much as hung my tote bag on the hook behind me on the wheelchair without first asking if it was OK.

The doctor didn’t just ask me to “take off your sock.” He said, “Please take off your Snoopy sock.” That put me at ease in a strange way. The very young hospital transport staffer who took me back from Xray was lovely. To explain what her colleague, who passed us, had told her– “It’s gotten to be like a Monday out there” — she said that the now bustling waiting room had filled up with mini marathon runners.

My badly sprained foot is still a mess—much uglier and more painful than when I broke it 10 years ago.

I don’t think I’ll ever overcome my out of proportion fear of all things medical. On my return home I went up in the elevator with a fellow tenant—a stranger. I raved about the hospital. He smiled and said “I’ve just returned from 22 days at that hospital. The doctors are wonderful.”

Do you have irrational fears about medical or other things that most others appreciate and/or take in their stride? Did you also experience a great emergency room visit?

View from my balcony. NYU Langone is on the left/East side of First Avenue, starting at the blue buildings.

Service of Being Taken Seriously When Sick

Monday, December 19th, 2022

This sick child was saved because her father had connections. What about everybody else?

Alice Tapper, Jake Tapper’s 15-year-old daughter’s opinion piece on cnn.com began like this: “It started one weekend in November 2021 with stomach cramping, a low fever, chills and vomiting. Soon it became clear I needed to go to the emergency room. By the time I got there, I had low blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, intense abdominal pain and a high white blood cell count.” The title: “I almost died last year from a medical problem that was entirely preventable.”

The doctors didn’t know what was wrong and moved her to another hospital where the head scratching continued. Her parents, with her pediatrician’s guidance, suggested to the doctors that she might have appendicitis. Because her pain wasn’t exclusively on her right side they decided, instead, that she had a viral infection.

Her skin was turning green and for excruciating pain she was given Tylenol. Her mother asked for a sonogram and her dad for antibiotics, and both pleaded for a gastroenterologist to review their child’s case. They were told the former was unnecessary; the latter would make things worse for a viral infection and no specialist came.

When she described her pain the doctors gave her “condescending looks” she wrote. In desperation her dad—CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent—was able to identify and contact the hospital administrator and he begged for a gastroenterologist to order imaging– or something.

Alice Tapper wrote: “In the middle of the night, I was rushed to get an ultrasound that revealed I had a perforated appendix that was leaking a poisonous stream of bacteria throughout my internal organs. When I learned my diagnosis, I was almost relieved. At least the doctors now had a plan.”

She goes on to describe next steps starting with surgery to rid her body of poison and later learned that at one point she was going into “hypovolemic shock — which can cause organs to stop working. That night was the scariest night of my life.”

She quoted a chief of pediatric emergency medicine at a Midwest children’s hospital whose research found that “despite being the most common surgical emergency in children, appendicitis can be missed in up to 15% of children at initial presentation.” Girls are taken less seriously by doctors than boys. And “up to half of appendicitis patients may not exhibit the classic signs of right lower quadrant pain, fever and vomiting.” [My husband, in his 70s, experienced no pain when his appendix needed to be removed much to his surgeon’s surprise and everyone else’s.]

Have you experienced not being taken seriously in an emergency health situation? Do we need to be well connected to get attention?


Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Service of You Can’t Please Everybody: Setting Up People to Fail

Monday, November 7th, 2022


Image by fran1 from Pixabay

The default for some is to criticize and complain. These people frequently set the stage for each situation they gripe about though they would claim that odds are stacked against them. Sometimes employers put workers in an impossible position and even then, these whiners have no pity.

Here’s a perfect illustration. The scene: my apartment elevator. The conversation: between a handyman and a tenant after they’d greeted each other. It was a Wednesday.

Handyman: I haven’t forgotten you.

Tenant: I thought you had.

Handyman: I’ll come this afternoon.

Tenant: I just had a vaccine. I don’t feel that well. Can you come next week?

I bumped into the woman that afternoon and she asked me about the weather and was planning to go out. How sick was she? There are 510 apartments here. Do you think the overworked handyman will remember her issue? I have zero proof but I suspect the woman doesn’t tip. When I submit an online workorder someone comes within a few hours and within minutes if I report a leak. I tip.

Here’s another example of impossible to please. I once had a client who had no respect for women which at the time, I wouldn’t admit and soldiered on even though his prejudice was obvious. In addition to putting me through ridiculous hoops he was verbally abusive and insulting in meetings to the woman who reported to him. With me, he would waste hours asking for press release rewrites. He’d want a word like “the” added, then deleted, then added again. Just before I left the PR agency where I represented his company, I drafted one last release and put as “contact” the name of the man who was taking my place on the account. That was the first and only release this client approved without changing a comma. Only then I admitted that the man had a problem working with women and there was nothing I could have done to appease him. Did I mention that the woman he demeaned in meetings was his girlfriend?

There are many examples of people who are set up to fail: Waitstaff responsible for too many tables; exhausted hospital personnel asked to cover another shift; administrative workers reporting to many overwhelmed executives on deadlines; customer service people who hardly speak English, to name a few. Have you experienced–or observed–other examples?

Service of Who Cares About the Customer?

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

What happened to “the customer is always right?” Here are three examples that illustrate the opposite. One is of a chronic nature; the other two are impacted by or are a result of the pandemic. There are simple solutions to all three.

Rethinking Hospital Tradition

There may be a million good reasons for it but patients suffer because of a tradition by hospitals, in these parts, to notify a patient the day before an operation–sometimes late in the day–about the timing of the procedure and when to show up. Some patients need to arrange for a friend or relative to pick them up if they are an outpatient. Not knowing the time until the last minute ties up the friend’s schedule and adds needless anxiety for the patient.

There must be a way to program operations a few days ahead of time.

Unemployment

I’ve quoted this former boss before. He’d say, “How come you don’t have time to do it right the first time but you have time to do it again?”

A friend has spent hours getting through to unemployment on the phone, waiting on hold for as long as 90 minutes once she succeeds only to have the employee say they’ve solved the problem when they haven’t. This has gone on week after week and the latest glitch is always something simple to fix such as checking a box. The result: Still no money.

With the crush of people needing help due to the furloughs and layoffs resulting from the pandemic, there must be a way to simplify the procedure and to decrease the number of errors that add to the lineup of phone calls.

Weighty Decision

A friend continues to pay full fee to Weight Watchers for the virtual meeting she now attends with a group in which she’s participated for eight + years. The studios are closed due to the pandemic. She is comfortable with the participants/support group she knows and the time for the weekly Zoom appointment fits her schedule.

The company notified the team leader it was cancelling the meeting at her time because they considered 15 to 20 participants too few and offered her other inconvenient times–with strangers. She says she will miss the collegiality of the group–essential for a program like this.

You would think that a big business could operate with a bit more heart during the pandemic, especially since clients are paying full freight while not attending in person meetings.

Why must patients be notified of the time of their operations at the last minute? How come the directors of unemployment haven’t simplified the application process to cut down mistakes relieving the clog in the system? Should a corporation like Weight Watchers, with a mission that involves support, be flexible in its bean counting during an especially stressful time for its clients?

Service of Fingers Crossed: When to Believe Thieves

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

When you comply to a ransom demand you’re not in the driver’s seat. You must hope that the thieves are honorable. If you watch “Law and Order” or its offshoots,  you’re familiar with the concept even if you’ve not yourself been plagued by such a horrifying theft.

The cyberthieves Sarah Cascone wrote about on artnet.com hadn’t absconded with a relative. Her article was: “Hackers Have Stolen Private Information From Donor Lists to 200 Institutions, Including the Smithsonian and the UK’s National Trust.” The subhead was: “The Parrish Art Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass were also hit by ransomware.” In addition to museums, data from hospitals, 16 US universities and 33 UK charities was lifted.

According to Cascone, the attack on Blackbaud–“a third-party cloud software company”–happened in May. Blackbaud told its clients a month later. They said that “the compromised data was limited to demographic information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and donation summaries, and did not include credit card information, bank account information, or social security numbers.” We hope.

Cascone reported that the Corning Museum said it doesn’t “keep credit cards, bank accounts, or social security numbers in the system hosted by Blackbaud.” One wonders where do they keep it and is it safe?

Blackbaud said it paid the cybercriminals and confirmed that they had destroyed what they’d stolen, according to Cascone. They paid in Bitcoin. “’What I find unsettling about Blackbaud’s situation is that they just took the hackers at their word that the stolen data was destroyed. In my experience, hackers almost always leave behind hard-to-find malware so that they can still access the system,’ said Wood.” Tyler Cohen Wood is a cyber-security consultant and the former cyber deputy chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Cascone continued: “She advises that museums employing third-party providers familiarize themselves with the company’s procedures for handling ransomware attacks and to have secure data backups, even if that means paying extra.”

If you were notified by an organization that such a breach had occurred, would you get a new credit card or bank account number even if you were told the cybercriminals had no access to–or had destroyed–that information? Have you ever asked an organization to which you donate money how they protect your financial and personal information? Is cash the only secure way to donate?

Service of Irritating and Charming Commercials: Phony and Legitimate Laughs

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

It was less than a year ago that I wrote about the commercials that drove me nuts. Clearly I’ve been listening to the radio and watching TV too much as there are two more to add to the “I immediately change stations or channels as soon as I hear them” list.

This time I’ll also share some adverts I like.

Fake giggles over unfunny circumstances are the worst. The prize goes to 1-800-I-Got-Junk for radio commercials in which business or homeowners laugh hysterically when the junk crew tosses out a piece of rubbish. My hands can be wet or sticky but off goes the station at the first sign of this shrill irritation and sometimes I don’t return. In looking for a link to it, which I didn’t find you’ll be relieved to know, I noticed a similar reaction to it on a website “Commercials I Hate!

Speaking of laughter, I can envision the room of 30-something creative types cracking up as they developed and produced the E*Trade commercial to scare people into saving money so they have funds for their retirement. Sung to the tune of “Banana Boat Song” that Harry Belafonte made famous, it consists of 85 year olds still working and looking foolish as they drop packages they’re trying to deliver, are dragged around by a heavy fire hose, are compared to model-perfect lifeguards and “DJ Nana” spinning records while hideously dolled up. Subconsciously, it could be this ad that inspired my post earlier in the week, “Service of Aging Gracefully.” The commercial isn’t aimed at me but at 30-somethings whose Nana’s and grandpas are, I hope, spending their time making money under more appropriate, dignified circumstances.

And I love “Banana Boat Song.”

I also enjoy the catchy tune that NYU Langone, a well-regarded NYC hospital, uses in some of its TV commercials which make me smile. There’s a series of which “Winter” and “Athletes on their Feet” are only two. Kudos NYU Langone! [And please take good care of my friend who has not been well.]

I wish there were more State Farm “Hall of Claims” commercials as this series is clever. My first favorite is the Mer-Mutts scene where the family pooch turns on the water in the kitchen and floods the living room transformed into a swimming pool. The woof and his pals perform a water ballet while their human mom and pop look on horrified. Actor J.K. Simmons is terrific. Some other good ones are The Truck-Cicle; Frightning-bolt and Vengeful Vermin.

My bet is that the ads that aggravate sell their products like crazy and the ones I like don’t—but I’m not in advertising so what do I know? Are there ads that motivate you to change channel or station in an instant and others you don’t mind hearing and even enjoy?

Service of Gentle Care at the Hospital

Monday, April 18th, 2016

If you need medical attention, it’s a blessing when you’re treated kindly. It might even make you feel–if not get–better.

Big Apple

I was taking in the scene at a bustling waiting room at New York Hospital (NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center) last week. Periodically technicians or doctors stood at the door and called a name. An elderly woman got up to eventually follow a doctor down the hall and close behind was a man.

But first the doctor greeted and shook hands with both and invited the man to join them. “Oh I’m just the escort,” said the man after acknowledging that it had been two years since he last saw the doctor. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to be funny with his escort service remark when he added, “I’m her neighbor,” which didn’t clarify much. The neighbor turned to the patient and asked if she wanted him to come with her. She said “yes,” and off they went.

The patient’s comfort was the objective. The greeting wasted little time; nobody was rushed, resulting in the best, most relaxing outcome.  Anyone in the waiting room who observed this moment was charmed.

Bean Town

After an accident where she broke two fingers, a friend needed an operation and was elated at the care she received. This was at Brigham and Woman’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston, known by the locals as Faulkner Hospital. For starters, still shocked by the fall and in pain, she appreciated that the doctor’s office called her to set up the appointment and gave her the next available date at the location nearest her home. Philip E.  Blazar, M.D., her doctor, was forthright, offering to show her as much as she wanted to see/learn about the breaks and was undaunted by peripheral health issues that posed potential hurdles.

She knew precisely what to expect because the pre-op team, from surgeon and nurses to fellows, anesthesiologist and assistants, explained every step and reassured her.

Residents came to her room one at a time, introduced themselves, explained their function and confirmed that she understood what they said. The person charged with making her cast did it quickly, with concern for her mobility, and the outcome was pristine. She left after the operation with all follow-up appointments set with the surgeon and a variety of occupational therapists.

Hospital staff was polite, detail-oriented and kind. Even the cleaning crew seemed happy. On every visit, if my friend or her husband passed anyone related to the hospital in a hallway, they’d ask if they might direct them to their destination. The receptionist seemed to keep track of patients to send husbands, wives or friends, coming separately, to the right floor.

Do you agree that how you’re treated is almost as important as the skill of the people who treat you? Have you observed or experienced similar recent examples to share?

Service of Patterns: Amazon.com, The New York Times Online and Nasdaq darkened; Pleasant Hospital Staff and Apps & Privacy

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Disconnect

Within less than a month nobody could access The New York Times online or Amazon.com, for hours, and Nasdaq closed down for 180 minutes causing millions to land on starvation diets of news, shopping, reviews and research. Whatever the reasons–computer glitches or hackers–the coincidences are unsettling.

Is this a pattern and is something fishy going on?

Healing

My husband was in two emergency rooms in one week, one, Lenox Hill, in NYC and one in a rural community, Sharon Hospital, Conn.[He’s fine.] We were encouraged and delighted by the warm, professional, smart care he received by medical and support staff in both places.

The entire health care/insurance industries are in a sling these days so this pattern of behavior is especially reassuring.

None of Your Business

We’ve come a long way since party lines when telephones were new, especially in rural areas, and many homes were connected to the same line. Nosey neighbors had only to pick up the phone while someone else was talking to catch some juicy tidbits. No doubt the operator who placed the calls was a town’s gossip action central.

These days it’s a lot more than the N.S.A. listening in and I get the feeling that millions have no clue what their own actions are doing to them. Health apps are among the culprits according to Consumer Bob on nbcsandiego.com. In “Health Apps May Share Personal Information: A San Diego privacy group says many of those apps are selling personal information they collect from users.” He wrote: “Collecting data on websites is nothing new. Everyone from Facebook to Google use profiles to market products and services to their users. But few people know their health and fitness apps may be doing the same thing.”

He also noted that “Many of these free applications will then sell your information to third-party advertisers.”

In the July/August issue of Dwell magazine I read about an app that for $20 stores photos and barcodes of all your furniture and appliances in case of fire or theft. There’s an option that tells you if you are adequately insured. But imagine the hacking possibilities and repercussions should this happen especially on a local level. Once you’ve collected all the information an old fashioned flash file backed by a hard copy would seem less potentially intrusive.

What do you think is going on with technology and big brands? How is it that hospitals big and small, rural and urban, have [finally] realized that a positive and pleasant atmosphere helps in healing? Are most people aware that the more they share in a digital world the more they give up their privacy?

 

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