Part 1: When Healthcare comes without the Care

Just a few days back I was witnessing an intense discussion among budding psychotherapists. Should we refer to patients with disabilities as ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’? I kept wondering about the futility of the discussion, in cases where we can neither appreciate nor empathise.

Coincidentally, I recently had to undergo a Carpal Tunnel Decompression Surgery which resulted in muscle wasting. Recovery, as expected, has been slow. I still find it a challenge to hold a pen and write continuously for a long time. Sometimes I need to ask for help. Never having been refused by common people around me might have raised my expectations from humanity.

Got a reality check when I was getting admitted to a hospital last week.

Having designed customer-facing operational processes for a considerable part of my career, I have a lot to say about the irrationality of filling up the huge pile of forms capturing repetitive information when a patient is getting admitted. But that is a topic for another blog.

To help me out, my business-partner-cum-friend had accompanied me to the admission desk where we patiently waited for the RT PCR results. But procedural delays and personal commitments made him leave before the admission process started.

After filling up three forms personally, ensuring all requisite information were uniquely captured, I signed the rest and requested a scribe to just copy.

“Sorry Sir, you have to do it yourself. That is the mandated process.”

It is not the refusal that irked me. The arrogance of looking through me, after passing the order, showing absolute lack of empathy towards a person with a temporary disability was overwhelming. I am sure they will use diplomatic terminology when they refer to my case!

With such an experience to start with, should I have been surprised when I was woken up in the morning with the most unforgettable greeting? “Sir, you need to get up. It is time for me to change the sheets.”

I was definitely to blame for having expected a “Good morning” or a “How are you feeling?” or an “Are you still in pain?”.

It was definitely not right of me to be annoyed when, having a severe throat ache, I requested soft food, but was ignored because the dietician had mentioned I should eat regular.

Here might be the right place to enquire. What exactly does a hospital dietician do? Especially the junior ones who come to ask us what we want to eat and charge us for the question!

The responses that I got were that they ‘approve’ what and when we should eat. Even if we are not under any NPM mandate or dietary restriction and are extremely hungry, it seems that we need to starve till they find time to visit our cabins. It is essential because they take the doctor’s guidance, our health condition and many other factors into consideration before picking items from a generic pre-cooked menu. I am sure it is a very important role, especially when the dietician deciding for me could not recall a single ailment or symptom that I had been admitted for.

“We have to cater to more than 60 patients at a time.”

Guess it is too late for me to apologise for not displaying social camaraderie. Asking for personalised healthcare, even in a private hospital, may be too much to ask . I should have borne in mind that all we are to them are elements of statistics!

In my profession of tech-enabled communication, I keep reminding business and brand managers that they should never forget that while digital methods and tools are just enablers. Digital Marketing is still about ‘Marketing’.

We need someone to remind healthcare institutions that ‘Care’ is a large part of what they are supposed to deliver.

[For the first time, I am forced to break a topic into multiple chapters. There are just too many experiences to share!]

Continue Reading Part 1: When Healthcare comes without the Care