Enjoying the holidays with family and friends will be especially meaningful this year. The recent tragic events in Newtown underscored the fact that life is both fragile and unpredictable. This remembrance has caused many of us to refocus on the importance of family and friends.
While I have always loved and valued my familial relationships, the past six months have allowed me to have an even greater appreciation for good health and well-being.
This past summer my father suffered an unexpected cardiac episode that resulted in ambulance transport to the emergency room, hospital admission and observation, an attempted angioplasty, and subsequent emergency open heart quadruple by-pass surgery.
During his nearly month-long hospital stay, three week stint in rehab, and month-long in-home recuperation, I met and communicated with his medical team which included an internist, cardiologist, cardiac surgeon, physician’s assistant, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, dietician, and nurses aides.
Advocating on my Dad’s behalf was an awesome experience and I was honored to be able to do it. But I couldn’t help wondering about patients and families that were so distraught, unfamiliar or uncomfortable with illness, hospital environments, health insurance limits, and the barrage of medical terminology wielded in the doctor/ patient/ family consultation.
Although I have been a healthcare advocate for a number of years, I have been fortunate not to have had a family health crisis of this magnitude. This experience provided frontline perspectives on what those battling healthcare challenges face on a daily basis, and why it’s important to keep fighting until victory is achieved.
Problems are sure to arise if a person is ill, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to communicate with medical staff or administrators. It is often difficult to focus on healing, when bombarded by administrative paperwork and the endless signing of releases. These difficulties are further exacerbated by barriers due to language, culture, and education.
It is crucial for patients to have a personal advocate to ask questions, explain recommended treatment rationales and risks, and administrative procedures in ways that are both culturally and linguistically appropriate. To increase healthcare efficacy patients must understand and be fully informed about: 1) the benefits, risks and expectations related to their medical care, 2) ways to properly access appropriate care, and 3) their role in the ongoing process of improving or sustaining their health. I’m glad to report my father is recovering nicely.
The Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange is considering amending healthcare policies to include the services of healthcare navigators. Ideally, navigators would help consumers more easily choose and participate in healthcare coverage options. The assistance, particularly if it were consumer-centered and leaned toward advocacy, could ultimately increase desirable patient outcomes. At this time especially, Connecticut residents could use some extra cheer, and this type of help would be one of the greatest gifts the Exchange could offer.
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