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  • Steven Corn

Who was that doctor?

So who was that doctor that treated my daughter in the ER and the hospital this past weekend??  Who was the radiologist that discovered that object?  Who was the nurse that made the ER visit so bearable?

Easy, right?  Not so much.

My daughter got sick over the Thanksgiving weekend.  She had two ER visits and one overnight hospital stay.  Fortunately, we averted what could have been a critical situation and she is now fully recovered.

This was due partially to serendipity.  We were simply lucky that I took her to the ER in time.  Had I waiting another 12 hours, her condition would have worsened and it's quite possible that the unthinkable might have happened.  But it was more than just luck which prevented that catastrophe.  I credit the many doctors, nurses and technicians who treated my daughter with saving her life.

I want to send a note commending the CT technician who decided to extend the field of view beyond my daughter's abdomen (which caught the potentially dangerous condition).  I want applaud the nurses and phlebotomists who worked so hard to get a good venipuncture.  I want to credit the X-ray technician who decided, on a hunch, to take an x-ray of her colon when all that was ordered was an esophagram.  I also want to find out more about the GI doctor who consulted on the case.

Unfortunately, I don't have this information.  Since my daughter was admitted to the hospital directly from the first ER visit, we never got ER discharge papers and I can't remember the name of the ER doctors or nurses (not an unusual event).  But even if we got discharge papers (such as we did from the second ER visit), it would not have included the nurse's name.  The hospital discharge papers did include the attending physician. But it did not include any consulting physicians.

The only way to give credit where credit is due is get my daughter's medical records and read thru the volumes of pages.  This requires a physical visit to the hospital with my daughter.  I am not even certain that the technicians and nurses' names would be included.

Maybe it's not that important to know the names of all of the team members.  Perhaps, I should simply be content with the positive outcome.  On the other hand, the entire healthcare system is moving quickly towards measured outcomes and accountable care.  This requires access to data on individuals as well as institutions.

Now, I am a big believer in providing constructive feedback not only when something goes wrong but also when something goes right.  I feel that I don't have the right to complain if I don't also acknowledge success.  This belief probably stems from a small poster my father (a CPA) had in his office which said:  "When I'm right no one remembers.  But when I'm wrong no one forgets."

Perhaps institutions want to protect the identities of these people from overzealous patients.  That would certainly be reasonable if an error was made.  Yet, I feel that is the patient's right to know who treated them and who performed the procedures and tests. It should be a lot easier to find out this information.

So who was that doctor?  I don't know.  (Third base.)

P.S.:  Surveying the successes and failures of hospitals is the main mission of Hospital Consumer Assessment of Hospitals Provider and Systems (HCAHPS).  (The data here is great and I wish that more people would access it.)

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