I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks. Last week I attended the American College of Healthcare Executives annual meeting in Chicago where I reconnected with some of my Navy colleagues as well as learned current healthcare trends for administration, finance, assessment and compliance. One lecture that struck me discussed the ever growing focus on healthcare customer service. While we have always taught (and lived it in the Navy) patient-centered care, there is a movement afoot to more clearly define what that means. I was encouraged to hear how some of the larger healthcare delivery organizations were moving from "patient-centered" care to "person-centered" care. When you think about it, that's what we're all about - taking care of people, whether they're our patients or not. As healthcare providers we have the responsibility to not only care for those sitting in our exam rooms or those who are the direct beneficiary of our care but also those around them. That includes being able to communicate effectively, ensuring ready and consistent access to care and information as well as spending time with our patients and families or significant others to help ensure they are active partners in their healthcare. In the days of productivity and RVU generation it's easy to loose sight of the fact that we're in the business of caring for people, not just generating numbers and data. It's a tough balance but I believe we need to maintain our focus on the person as providers. Sometimes that's easier said than done - which is where the challenge lies.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet with alumni, friends and other industry professionals while attending Vision Expo East in New York. I never attended this meeting so it was a nice treat to experience something new. In my conversations with some of our alumni and others I discussed what I had heard in Chicago in the week prior. It was surprising to me the "push-back" I received from some stating that it's almost impossible to see enough patients during the day if we spend too much time with them. On the other side of the coin, I heard the opposite, where others were making the effort to ensure enough time was spent with patients in order for them to feel important. Once again, it's a balancing act that we absolutely need to get our heads around.
Now I'm on my way home from San Antonio where I had the absolute pleasure of supporting our Osborne College of Audiology at their annual AudiologyNOW, American Academy of Audiology meeting. It's funny, there was no talk of RVU's or anything like that. Audiology is a dynamic profession in the midst of growth and change. Today's audiologists are trained at the highest level (they obtain an AuD or Doctor of Audiology degree), but because legislation has not kept up with educational levels, these amazingly talented professionals are not considered independent providers in the eyes of Medicare, most third party payers and the Federal Government. This creates quite a problem if Medicare patients need hearing care as they must be referred to an audiologist if that provider is to receive Medicare or third party reimbursement. While the profession is working hard to get this corrected, it's not likely going to happen for quite a while. The sad part is that the biggest loser is the patient. Getting back to my original points about patient or person-centered care, the government really needs to take a hard look at professions such as audiology. They need to ensure that patients are benefiting from current rules and regulations and not lobbyists, or others more concerned about their own rice bowls than they are about the patients we all care for.