Lump the questions!

Mrs K took to Pranayam and morning walks ever since she tested positive for breast cancer. Alternating between despondency and healthy optimism she procrastinated between seeking nature cures and getting the lump surgically removed. After long ponderous discussions the lump was removed and all seemed to be well.

Then came the next step, how should one prevent the recurrence of such a problem again? Should she get Chemo or Radiation or a combination of both or just take medication? For an ordinary person these are just words with no real meaning. The only idea that most people have is that if you do chemo you lose all your hair! The course of treatment for longterm problems is normally very complex. The doctors try to do their best and the patient tries to understand what they are saying and what it means for them. In this case, Mrs K with a prior history of heart disease and stroke needed someone who could give her wholistic advice on what it would mean for her to undergo any of the possible treatments and which one would be the best choice.

The private hospital doctors she visited normally recommended doses of chemo and radiation followed by long term medication. The government hospital doctors typically recommended just medication. While I am no expert on medicine and I am sure that each one of them took a decision they thought was best. But doesn’t, this situation cause doubts in the mind of a patient? The patients mental state is typically confused, insecure and wary.

At a moment like this one needs support both from family and medical institutions. When you hear a private hospital doctor recommend a more expensive course of treatment the immediate reaction is that “The private hospitals are out to make money, they don’t care about me”. Private hospitals would look at the situation and clearly point out that they are more susceptible to lawsuits and would prefer to err on the side of caution, thereby recommending a stronger treatment” so what if it is more expensive, the patient can afford it”. We all know that the business of health is complex and with no clear answers on either side we tend to take whomsoever’s side depending on what suits most of us. If we believe that Government hospitals are so wonderful why do we visit the private hospitals?

If we do go to the private hospitals can we really expect zero cost premium service? Aren’t our hospitals going down a dangerous path by recommending stronger treatments just to protect ourselves? While these questions have varying viewpoints my only submission is that “Why are we forgetting the patient in all this? Even if healthcare is a business, isn’t the customer our first priority? Who should take responsibility for making the customer feel comfortable? If the private hospital had answered these questions well, they could have built trust in the customer, who would have visited them regularly.

Instead, the customer chose not to believe them and went to a government hospital. The private medical establishments must rethink the business in the context of patients and customers. Post operative care and medical treatment is the long tail of business generation. A surgery is a business transaction that yields revenue in the same way that Eureka Forbes water purifier when sold generates bulk amounts.

The hard facts are that Eureka Forbes has built a strong brand around the regular servicing and maintenance visits. Their presentations proudly proclaim that they are “your friend for life”. Isn’t that what a hospital should be too? The care in healthcare can only come through if we genuinely exhibit the desire to make our customers well. This means going beyond medical procedures and addressing the concerns and questions that are faced by Mrs K.

While the time we spend in answering her questions will be scoffed at by many who read this article, I am confident that if you have ever been on the other side as a patient or a family member, this time will mean more to you than any medical procedure you may ever experience.

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