You work in long term care, maybe even hospice. Mr Allen just does not seem right this morning. He is not as cheery as usual and seems less alert and responsive. You usually can get him to smile and move on, but not today. His respiratory rate seems the same by count. He seems tired and working infinitesimally harder to breathe.
You wisely decide not to cry wolf and report an event that is not an event. A quick look by the supervisor would result in two equally bad plans of action. The family is called, the patient transported to the emergency room, or, because you detected something early, no one quite believes you and says just wait and see.You go home frustrated and, truth be told, angry. You spend hours, days, and months with the patient, yet you are ignored. The patient worsens, suffers, and maybe dies. Now you feel guilty, regretful, and burned out.
Or, your day could go differently. You instead take out your iPhone, make a HIPAA-secure note to yourself with a video and move on to your next task. You check back later, and things are very subtly worse. You want and need to report the change. You show your supervisor the note you made earlier in the day, you have the video to share, and you can prove that the patient has worsened over a few hours.
A minor change in medication is made by his primary care doctor and a specialist. Mr Allen is more comfortable. He looks forward to seeing his son Brandon who is back from college. You not only bathed him, talked to him, put a note in the EHR, took his vital signs, you made his life better, your life better, saved a lot of money, supported your team, and went home with the respect of others and yourself.
As healthcare providers, we each have different titles: Aide, CNA, medic, corpsman, patient care technician, orderly. There are problems with the labels. They neither describe your important roles adequately nor give you the respect you deserve and have earned.
It is you who is at the bedside and knows when a change has occurred or even when a change is about to occur. You are that close to what is going on. You are the eyes and ears of the healthcare system. It is also you who has to explain -- or even defend -- treatment plans and interventions. You are always answering the questions: Why? What is going on? When is the doctor coming? When do I go down for the procedure? Why do I have to go to the hospital?
I would guess, however, that you have never been asked how you can collaborate better. Is it because you have had less time behind desk and book? Is it because regulations pigeon hole you into a small box? I know that mostly your use of cellphones has been banned while at the same time you are the only person who can operate the patient's bed, call bell, pulse oximeter and blood pressure machine -- all at the same time.
But no healthcare collaboration can happen effectively without the aide being a crucial part. By having the right tool to work with you can do the right thing. After all, you are the unsung hero in healthcare, the most important part of the team, and the only person on the team that Mr Allen cares about.
Are you an aide and want to try telemedicine supported healthcare collaboration? We'll get you set up in no time, with a free trial:
Photo from myfuturedotcom on Flickr, under Creative Commons rights.