"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Flawed Perceptions

On Monday morning when I arrived at the office, there was a voice mail message from an angry family member of a patient.  I listened to the message and although I was called worse and repeatedly threatened during the call, being called a dirty rotten, no good son of a bitch got my attention.  The individual went on to say that because WMHS had no surgeon on call over the weekend, his family member had to be transported to a tertiary care center.  I immediately looked into the complaint and learned that the family member was missing a few very important details.  First off, we always have a surgeon on call and, in this case, two were consulted.  Both surgeons felt that due to the severity of the patient's condition, the patient needed to be transferred to a major tertiary care center.  That was successfully accomplished.  I then asked for follow up to occur with the spouse of the patient since I couldn't follow up with the family member as it would have been a breach of patient confidentiality.  The follow up occurred and the spouse was thrilled with the care that the patient received while at WMHS and fully supported the decision to transfer the patient.  The spouse was very apologetic for the family member's behavior.  

Now the dilemma that we deal with every day:  the perception in the community.  This angry family member probably told a lot of people about our shortcomings related to the care of this patient, and that information was dead wrong.  We continue to hear about poor care,especially being provided in the ED; and many times when pressed, the response is "I heard it from a friend of a friend of a friend."   As a health system, we clearly recognize that we are not perfect and are striving to provide the best care for every patient every time.  But, we also have lots of work to do in changing such perceptions.  However, we have great team in place to get that job done.

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