Guest Blog on DrGreene.com

I was honored to be invited as a guest blogger on DrGreene.com. I met Dr. Greene and his wife Cheryl in February this year, and they really are big believers in patients! I love that Dr. Greene spoke so much about shared decision making and really trying to understand the pain that patients report. I will be writing two more blogs for them in the next few weeks.

This blog entry was meant to provide some perspective on what it is like to be a teenager with a chronic disease. I try to be as “normal” as possible, but it is really challenging to try to deal with all of the medical issues while still in high school. I hope that this blog can provide some perspective to those who see patients and can help other patients know that they aren’t the only ones who are struggling.

The blog post can be found here.

Being a Teenager with a Chronic Disease – DrGreene.com

I look forward to hearing other perspectives.

Rough Few Months

I have had a really rough few months. My year started off pretty well, and I was excited about my last semester of high school. Then, my mom broke her leg, and I was helping her get around. Then, I fell and split my elbow open and needed stitches. I have also been having a lot of back problems for a long time that the doctors haven’t been able to figure out, and I have been having testing often. Then, my grandmother died in March, and she was my favorite person in the whole world. And now, I had an ovarian cyst rupture. I seriously hope that I can have some good luck soon as it sounds like a lot more fun.

I have so many things to write about when I have time, but I am still recovering and I have a LOT of school to make up before graduation.

Just some quick thoughts and I will write posts on these later.
1. We don’t make it very easy on patients to get tests and results. Schedules are very rigid and if you need to reschedule, say for a funeral, then it can be weeks before you get the new appointment.
2. Directions need to be clear. Even something as simple as stitches had us a little confused on what to do.
3. Doctors should not get a pass for being rude just because they are a doctor. I am tired of hearing excuses that they are great diagnosticians but they just aren’t good at communicating.
4. Hospitalists are like substitute teachers. They are just subbing in for the actual doctor and often don’t have enough information or ability to make a change.
5. Some of healthcare is just actually understanding that the patient is having a really hard time and acknowledging that there isn’t much that can be done to make it easier. This is a hard process.
6. Nurses can make a huge difference in peoples lives as I found out when my grandmother was dying.

I will try to write some here and there, but I wanted to say hi and explain where i have been lately. I have some speaking engagements coming up, and I am always looking for new ones, especially after May when I graduate! Please let me know how you are doing and thoughts you have on the above. I love hearing from you.

Remembering Differences

Tonight, I had dinner with a friend that I hadn’t really talked to in a long time. We had a great time catching up at dinner. She is in the CNA program at our school, but when asked whether she wanted to be a nurse, she said absolutely not because the blood makes her pass out. She started telling stories about getting blood drawn, and her stories were pretty funny. However, what wasn’t funny is that almost every story she referenced how the nurse or person drawing her blood didn’t understand that she can’t help passing out or vomiting. It is something that just happens to her. She has tried to work through it, but regardless, she either gets sick or passes out each time.

I also found it interesting that she is thinking about a career as a child life specialist so that she can help kids not be scared. When I was first diagnosed, I was terrified at having blood drawn. It literally made me anxious and sick. Now, I am pretty sure I could start my own IV and take my own blood. 🙂 However, I think it is important to remember that these things are not routine to everyone. Their fear and symptoms can be very real to them. At the very least, we should acknowledge them when they tell us and see what we can do to ease the fears.

My Talk at the Dignity Health Patient Experience Summit

Last fall, I was honored to be invited to speak at the Dignity Health Summit Patient Experience Summit. I wrote about it here.

Dignity Health has been kind enough to share the video from that event with me and has given me permission to share it. I would love for you to leave any comments about it.

Thank you to Dignity Health for having me, for sharing the video, and for supporting Cure jM!

If you would like to have me speak at your event, please email me at morgangleason@gmail.com. 🙂

Reflections from a Patient – UCSF Peds By the Bay Post

I was honored to be asked by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Peds by the Bay team to write a “Reflections from a Patient” post. Not only was I happy to be asked to share my experience and thoughts, but I got to work with a great editorial team. I am also the first one to write a patient reflections piece, and I hope that it starts a trend. Patients really do need a voice.

Here is the link to the post on their site http://pediatrics.ucsf.edu/blog#.VD9DIdTF9Ec.

I am also posting the text here but click on the link to see it on their site for nice formatting and pictures 🙂

The Peds by the Bay Blog is fortunate to welcome our first post on the patient’s perspective, from a well-known blogger, Morgan Gleason. Her perspective below highlights her thoughts on today’s medical care in general and is not directed at any hospital or clinic in particular.

Last fall, I went into the hospital to get my regular Solumedrol and IVIG treatment that I had been getting for about 3 years. After the treatment, I usually get a bad headache that sometimes lasts for a few days, but this time, it was different. I was discharged from the hospital on Friday, and on Saturday my headache was worse than normal, and I had new pain in my knee and back. I went to the Urgent Care because Advil and Tylenol were not working. They prescribed Vicodin, and other than me acting a little crazy and getting some short-term relief, the headache was still very bad.

That Monday, we called my doctor. He said to wait it out and maybe it was a virus. When we called back on Tuesday, he prescribed a higher dosage of steroids to take for a few days to see if that helped. Several times, we discussed going to the ER but I didn’t want to go because I knew it would mean a spinal tap. By Thursday night, I was lying on the bathroom floor crying. My mom said enough was enough and took me to the ER. The spinal tap was done and showed white blood cells in the spinal fluid, which meant I had meningitis, so I was admitted for 8 days. When I was doing better, they send me home. I had a few rough days after I got home, but then I finally felt better. It took me a few months to get my strength back and to be able to really feel better, but I was healed. I was relieved to be back to riding my horse and hanging out with my friends.

However, I also realized, as I looked back on my hospitalization and the weeks afterward, that many times, the things I went through were tougher than necessary for my family and me. I realized that some small changes could really have improved our experience, and I decided to speak up about them. Please be aware that we are very happy with our doctors and hospital. These are common issues that I have experienced with most doctors and hospitals and they are meant as examples to inspire improvement.

When you are very sick and not feeling well, it can be terrifying. When the call is made to the doctor’s office and the patient (or mom) says that they are very worried, it shouldn’t take hours to be able to talk to the doctor. In most cases, we are asked to leave a message for a nurse who will call back when she has time – this could be hours or even the next day. To get a response from a doctor at the time you call, or a few minutes after you call, would be a huge relief to patients and families alike. When you are sick and concerned, minutes are not just minutes, they are each 60 seconds of anxiety and stressing that something could be very wrong.

I know that teaching is very important in healthcare, and I usually try to teach the med students and residents about my rare disease so that maybe they will be more familiar with it than your average doctor. However, it is not comforting to hear things like, “I haven’t ever done a spinal tap before. Can I do this one?” I already get stressed about spinal taps due to a complication I had one time where I had a leak, and I had to stay in the hospital for 12 days. It is better to discuss things like that in the hall and then talk about it with the patient and family.

When I was admitted, we had been in the ER all night and had been suffering through many sleepless nights before we arrived. I had a horrible headache, was exhausted, and all I wanted was to go to sleep. However, I had someone in my room non-stop for hours after being admitted. Finally, a nurse saw I was on edge and put a sign on the door that said, “Do NOT enter unless REQUIRED.” It was an amazingly kind act and let me get several hours of sleep. Sleep is important for the patient and the healing process.

I had three doctors who were treating me at the hospital. Each one had his own ideas about the best treatment. Instead of spending 30 minutes together in a room talking about it, they would each tell their opinions to my mom and then ask what the other doctors said. From my experience, we could solve a lot of problems in the hospital if we just had ALL of the doctors treating the patient come in the room at the same time to discuss what is happening and to determine a plan together. Some hospitals are starting to do “patient-centered rounds”, but I haven’t yet had the experience of all of my doctors coming at one time.

The discharge plan is important and needs to cover what to do in different situations. It shouldn’t just say call the doctor or go to the ER with these symptoms. I got home and had worsening pain and didn’t have any real plan to deal with it if the meds I was given weren’t enough. This made me suffer and worry about having to go back to the hospital.

At our follow up visit to the neurologist, we were greeted with an iPad to fill out information. It asked SO many questions, and it really seemed to be a lot since I was an existing patient. Then, when we got into the room, all of the same questions were asked again. If you are going to ask patients to do work, make it meaningful and use what they give you. If you are going to ask the questions again anyway, skip the iPad or clipboard. I would rather have a conversation with the doctor than fill out the forms.

Both the neurologist and the hospital have a patient portal. We have logged into both, and unfortunately that requires two different logins that have different requirements so we can’t even use the same user name and password. I actually am up to 7 patient portals so far. Then, when I do log in, the information is so very limited that it isn’t helpful. For example, none of the visit notes are there. Each has a medication list that isn’t correct and the hospital has a bunch of lab test results but that is it. It is great to have online access to my information, but this process needs to be easier for the patient.

Unfortunately, I subsequently had a second case of meningitis. However, this time, I was much more prepared. My mom had requested all of the records, so this time she could give specifics to the doctor about what happened last time. We knew to ask for a sign on the door to let us sleep. We knew what meds worked and didn’t, and we made sure to stay at the hospital long enough to try out the home pain meds to be sure they treated my headache adequately. In other words, we did our part to make the experience better, and the doctors and hospital also tried to make it better. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and this experience inspired me to make videos, write blogs, and speak at medical conferences about patient experience. If everyone would work together, I believe can improve the experience for patients, families, and doctors.

About the author: Morgan Gleason, a Florida high school student and patient experience advocate, shares her healthcare experiences to inspire change. Four years ago at the age of 11, Morgan was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called Juvenile Dermatomyositis. After making a video that went viral while in the hospital for aseptic meningitis, she began recording more videos and writing posts for her blog as well as writing articles for journals and other healthcare sites. She enjoys sharing not only her frustrations with the system, but also simple examples of ideas and methods that can make it better. When she isn’t in school or working as a patient advocate, she is riding her favorite horse Riley. See more at http://morgangleason.com and follow her on twitter at @Morgan_Gleason.

Health 2.0

I was invited to speak at Patients 2.0 at Health 2.0 in Santa Clara, CA, but I had to miss it because of school. They had asked me to speak about what I would change about healthcare. Since I couldn’t be there, I made a video response that they played at the conference. If you missed it, here it is. I would love your comments and ideas.

Stanford Medicine X

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I had the privilege to be a speaker at the Stanford Medicine X Conference at Stanford Medical School. I was honored to be selected to participate. It was a great conference for many reasons, but the biggest reason is that they include patients. It was so great to hear other patients tell their stories and to meet other people who have similar ideas.

Here is my poster that I used for my talk. I would love to answer any questions about it, so please leave me comments. Basically, the top is about me and my medical experience. Then, I have examples of creative solutions I have seen to solving common challenges. Third, I have advice for having good patient experience. And then I finish with some challenges that I still experience in healthcare. I hope that people will work on solving those problems with me.

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