Oh, to be an animal

Judy Foreman in the Boston Globe asked, Why can’t people hospitals be more like those for animals? Consider:

  • When her cat was in the hospital, the cardiologist called her twice a day with updates
  • Other staffers called during the day with updates, and she could call in any time and have updates read to her off the computer

Foreman interviewed a Harvard School of Public Health professor, whose dog was hospitalized.

“The cardiology resident called me every single day. Yet I’ve had the personal experience with human relatives where I could never get through to the physician or resident.” Discharge instructions…are…”better in well-trained veterinary programs than in many discharges from [people’s] hospitals.”

A lot of the usual excuses for poor service in people hospitals are trotted out:

  • Fear of lawsuits
  • Paperwork
  • Low reimbursement
  • Privacy rules
  • Complexity

But I think the real answer is we could do better if we made customer service a higher priority. That’s why I favor efforts by CMS to reward hospitals financially based on patients’ satisfaction with their experience.

June 28, 2005

2 thoughts on “Oh, to be an animal”

  1. Sometimes I think that perhaps if we could euthanatize people, that would make those still alive more appreciative. It’s an option they always have in the veterinary field.

  2. To compare human medicine and veterinary medicine is useful to consider what happens in medical care for infants. Since pediatricians can’t communicate much to infants about their medical condition, pediatricians devote much more effort than other physicians to communicating with and accommodating family members.

    There is room for improvement throughout medicine in communicating with patients and their families, but doctors can learn not only from veterinarians but also from pediatricians. Many trends such as loosening up restrictions on visiting hours have begun in pediatrics and expanded throughout medicine. As medicine becomes more complicated there is more need for such communications.

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