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On death’s door: My patient experience

by Mark Felts

“The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

That is the definition of patient experience written by the Beryl institute.

Mark Felts
“As the tears streamed down their faces all I could come up with was: ‘That was a rough ride.’” – Mark Felts

It is difficult to capture patient experience in just a sentence but I believe that this is the best I have seen. The training of physicians, nurses, techs and administrators that provide patient experience across the globe is as varied as asking individuals for the definition. One thing that always holds true is that we all tend to remember our own family or individual patient experiences.

One late Thursday afternoon in September, my wife and daughter were standing at my bedside in a prominent hospital in north Dallas. The reason for my late night trip in the back of an ambulance was to learn what it really means to have kidney stones. First impression, extremely painful, but then I and my wife realized that this is a fairly routine occurrence as healthcare goes. We talked and believed I could have this taken care of and be back to work by Monday.

The physician on call had ordered the nurse to give me a double dose of Dilaudid. This is a heavy narcotic used often for extreme pain. Once again, this seemed routine and the physician surely knew best. The nurse administered the dose and turned to enter it into the electronic medical record.

At this point my patient experience slalomed downhill quickly. I arched my back and died in front of my wife and youngest daughter. Yes, code blue, flat line, white light, Elvis has left the building, gone. They rushed my family out and called a code blue that brought in a team and crash cart to deal with the situation.

Mark Felts will speak at the CLOs in Healthcare Conference in Houston on June 2 and 3.

The time in between the dose and my being brought back was right at five minutes. I was helped to a sitting position by one of the crash team members and then my wife and daughter were brought back to my bedside. As the tears streamed down their faces all I could come up with was: “That was a rough ride.”

And so, I was picked up by a set of EMT’s early Thursday morning, died due to medical error Thursday evening, was operated on Saturday morning and back home Sunday afternoon in time to watch the Cowboys lose to the Chiefs. In that time I had no less than 30 people from over a dozen different healthcare disciplines interact and create my patient experience. Many of those involved were exceptional and a few certainly were not.

I feel extremely fortunate to be able to pen this blog. I wake up early each day and know that there are multiple ways to improve the patient experience across the continuum of care. I believe we all can be change agents to improve a highly complex health system. I chose to urge the people I work with to create better and more relevant training and development for those who will be there to help us when we need it.

How have you decided to impact change in our healthcare ecosystem?