Service Agreements for Me and My Health Team

I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago for the Society of Participatory Medicine about Service Agreements Among Friends and Colleagues. My point was that service agreements set boundaries, which can be especially important for someone who’s managing a chronic condition. I shared my post with my colleagues at Involution Studios while we discussed the future of Precision Medicine.  What if we had service agreements with members of our health team? Professionals and non-professionals. And ourselves. Could we think of care plans as service agreements? Person-centered care planning focuses on the goals of the person on the health journey. Who’s going to do what to get there? When? How will these goals and activities be tracked and shared across time and settings? The service agreement is the who’s doing what to get there and when are they going to do it? If my goal is to progress as slowly as possible with my Multiple Sclerosis, then my part of the service agreement is that I will: Continue reading “Service Agreements for Me and My Health Team”

Coalition for Compassionate Care of California


I attended the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California Conference (#CCCC17) in Sacramento this week as an ePatient Scholar. Exhilarating, informative, warm, curious, inspiring, and tiring. I hoped to leave with one novel (for me) insight into palliative care; hear patient, caregiver, and clinician stories about their experiences; to hear how clinicians receive education about end-of-life conversations; to add to my network of patient/caregiver experts; and leave with a sharper focus for my #careplanning work. Amazing! I accomplished all five. I hoped to accomplish three of five (I habitually set myself up to exceed expectations).

  1. The new insight: In Prognosticating for Adverse Outcomes Using Palliative Care with Daniel Hoefer, MD, I learned that we can predict probable outcomes for elderly persons with few reserves facing surgery and hospitalization. They will be likely to have cognitive and functional decline and go into a nursing home.  The hip replacement may be successful but without an acceptable quality of life. Intriguing presentation.
  2. Personal stories of individuals, caregivers, and clinicians filled every nook. Two twenty-somethings, Charlie and Devon, spoke about their experience with serious chronic illnesses since birth. One had just had the first full year of unhospitalized life in her 26 years. Danielle, a caregiving mother, shared stories about her 10-year-old daughter’s journey born with one ventricle. Surgery after surgery, complication after complication, traveling back and forth from Arizona and Boston for care. Sandy Chen Stokes, RN, MSN received an award for her work with the Chinese American community. This community has the lowest rate of hospice use of any group in the US. The Chines American Coalition for Compassionate Care represents 1300 people in 80 groups around the country. A force of nature! I wish I had a means of recording these stories and sharing them. I’ll be collaborating with the Patient Voice Institute to make this easier.
  3. I spoke with Michael Fratkin, MD, Director, Resolution Care, about a virtual immersive learning tool being developed by Lahey Clinic and Wellesley Partners to teach physicians to be more skilled at advanced care planning. He advised me that the support of clinical leadership, alignment with daily clinic workflow, and interest of the physicians were needed for any teaching tool to be effective.
  4. I’m eager to continue communicating with my fellow ePatient Scholars.  Elizabeth has MS, is quadriplegic, and whispers through a headset into a speaker. “I’m a world-class emailer!!”
  5. Finally, I received reinforcement from my ePatient mates to focus some of my work on tools for goal setting and measurement of goal concordant care (Our care follows our preferences).

This week I’m headed to DC to complete review of PCORI Palliative Care funding requests. Onward!

Re-calibrating – Finding Balance

So, I have new MS lesions. I’m weaker, less stamina. A 3-days of IV SoluMedrol (steroids) infusion knocked me out. I’m recovering. What will my new normal be? Once again, I’m grateful for my health team. It reconfirms for me that executing a continuing plan of care for self, health team self-care, and building a responsive, loving, skilled health team are critical priorities for best health.

I’m out of balance. Balance implies constant motion – seesaw-like. It’s almost never a steady state. Balance occurs occasionally naturally while going up and down. A balance needs space and time to recalibrate. To think, to reflect, to adjust, to meditate, to vacation, to take a deep breath. Sometimes balance is an active process – change something, add weight, take off weight. More time at work, more time with family, more music, more exercise, more greens. Sometimes it’s laying back, letting life play out, resting, and return to balance as part of the normal see-saw. I’m lucky that I have a low tolerance for being out of balance.  I feel it acutely. I find it easier to be active attaining balance than to give myself some grace and let the balance return more organically. It feels better to be creating space and appreciating space.  More optimistic, better spirit.  Let’s see what happens. Honor caregivers. Help the helpers. Happy New Years, dear readers.

#CarePlanning – a Mission From God

house-wvMy wife and I built a house together – the whole house, everything except drilling the well. While building, living and improving it over 5-6 years, we had a running argument about paneling. She hated it and I loved it. It took us several years to figure out that she hated 4×8 sheets of paneling and I loved real wood paneling.  Turns out that we agreed. We had different images associated with paneling. Communication is a bitch in the best of circumstances.

No wonder that a person’s health team struggles to communicate at transitions (between team members, when adding a new team member, between people, offices, and settings) – it’s a perfect tower of Babel. In its simplest form communication is who, what and how.  Who needs to communicate? What do they need to communicate? How will they communicate?

Let’s focus on the what. What are the goals of the person on the health journey? Who’s going to do stuff to get there? When? How will these goals and activities be tracked and shared across time and settings? Continue reading “#CarePlanning – a Mission From God”

Giving Thanks

thanksI’m thankful for my superpower that I shared with my mother, Ruth, and son, Mike – accepting what is.

I’m thankful that I was born a  white straight male to a closeted gay dad, Ruben, and a Holocaust survivor, Ruth – I appreciate that I have first world problems and learned from them that I must act to better the world.

I’m thankful that my best friend is my life partner and care partner – I strive to be equal to her love.

I’m thankful for my extended family, characters all.

I’m thankful for a 40+ year career as a nurse – privileged to serving during people’s most vulnerable moments.

I’m thankful that I was invited to join my grandmother, mother, and son during their end-of-life journeys.

I’m thankful that my grown sons love the strong women they married, revel in fatherhood, and contribute to community well-being – they keep me honest.

I’m thankful for my grandsons – OMG, what can I say?! Continue reading “Giving Thanks”

Health, Wellness, and Medical Decision Support, Wherever and with Whomever

When diagnosed wcdsith multiple sclerosis, I did little research. Here I was, a card carrying member of the research industrial complex heavily involved with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). I just couldn’t bring myself to Google MS.  I relied on my wife to do the research and inform me. I told my neurologist I wanted to get worse as slowly as possible and didn’t want to take anything that messed with my pathological optimism. Then I relied on him to make medical decisions for me.  No clinical decision aids. Simultaneously, friends sent me books and links about diet, lifestyle, over-the-counter supplements to help me with my MS. Thanks, I guess. Not that receptive.  Without looking up one study, I tried non-medical professionals – massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture. These I still use almost a decade later. I brought whatever I heard about or tried to my neurologist, and we discussed it. He told me that he knew about drugs and medical therapeutics, but that everything worked for someone. Some things he knew about and some he didn’t. He liked hearing what worked for me. He told me what he had heard from other patients.

When my mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, she relied on me to do the research. Well, really, she asked me questions, so I had to do the research. In fact, she didn’t make any decisions based on the evidence I uncovered. “I’ve had a good life. No surgery, no chemo, no radiation. I want to stay home.” Continue reading “Health, Wellness, and Medical Decision Support, Wherever and with Whomever”

The Thorny Thicket of Feedback and Advice

When I was diagnosed with MS, people came out of the woodwork with advice and feedback. I was so not receptive. When I talked with my neurologist about the advice, he said, everything works for someone. The challenge is figuring out if it works for you. I have an executive coach who gives me feedback periodically. This I listen to and follow to the best of my ability. My wife gives me feedback. After 41 years of marriage I know she’s right 95% of the time. I follow it 80% of the time. A family member asks me for advice and I’m reluctant to give it. Who am I to advise? What if it’s bad advice? Giving and taking advice or feedback seems so complex, fraught, welcome, and unwelcome.

What’s the difference between advice and feedback? According to the dictionary,

Advice is guidance or recommendations concerning future action, typically by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative.

Feedback is information about reactions to a product, person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis of improvement.

They blend together for me.

Speaking with two teachers, math and art, we came up with empathy, modeling, and faith as the keys to giving great feedback and advice. Empathy. Listening to understand the person’s story, feelings, and perceptions. Modeling. Walk the talk. Faith. Confidence that the person is already great and can act on the feedback or advice you’re giving if it’s right for them.

So what about key factors for receiving feedback and advise? How about trust, readiness, and self-confidence? Trust. The adviser, feedbacker(?) is knowledgeable and has no other agenda than your growth or recovery. Readiness. I’m open. I want feedback. Self-confidence. I can do as suggested. Continue reading “The Thorny Thicket of Feedback and Advice”

Scared?

My friend, Phyllis, in Cleveland suggested I might be asking the wrong question: “What works for me when I’m scared and what doesn’t?” You may recall that readers who have been patients and caregivers have been adamant that this is a key piece of information that should be in the electronic health record, especially needed in the ER. In 5+ years of advocacy I’ve been unable to generate interest from IT wonks. Anyway, I was whining about my ineffectiveness to Phyllis.

So let’s break it down a bit more. I’ve never met anyone in an unexpected health situation who wasn’t scared. Scared looks like: startled, numb, stomach ache, sweating, heart racing, catastrophizing , panicked……

It’s good to know in advance what helps settles me down. Deep breaths, meditation, hold my hand, a good laugh, quiet, a walk, listening to John Lennon, my wife and family, more information, respect from those around me plus listening to me, Ativan. My mom needed a hand to hold, control, opera. My friend needs someone from his immediate family and information, reduced stimulus, quiet, to be kept warm, headphones with classical musical. We all can use something. The unexpected health care situation can vary. My chronic condition, MS, could flare up – known yet unexpected.  You could break your leg – an accident plus pain. You could have a heart attack or kidney stones – sudden, debilitating, with pain. You could be alone or with someone you trust – very different scenarios. Continue reading “Scared?”

Experiences, experiments, reflection, action

This week people told me stories about a moment in their health journey – Symptoms, people, relationships, procedures, thresholds, feelings.  Completely fascinating, inspiring, and gut wrenching windows into life’s challenges and tragedies. I heard,  I’m worried, the surgery worked, I can’t find a clinician who listens to me, my condition recurred – worse, my family’s supportive and grieving, how will I manage my job, I fell, my mother went into assisted living  (all from different people). Other people told me about work they’re doing – research, businesses, experiments.  I heard, let me tell you about the study I’ve been doing about multiple sclerosis, I’ve learned a lot about the stages that a person goes through as they gather information about chronic illness, I’m helping people succeed in their startup, I’ve found 5 people who have had the same success managing their chronic fatigue.  I read studies this week about reducing opioid use,  predicting resource use in chronic illness,  and improving the ability of individuals and clinicians to communicate and set mutual health goals.

Actually, this is a normal week. Experiences, experiments, reflection, action. All tie together. Each necessary, none sufficient.

Engaged with Sax

Shopping for a new neurologist I had three screening questions:

  • What’s your response time to emails?
  • Do you use OpenNotes?
  • How would you work with my acupuncturist?

The first doc said, ‘I don’t use email, we don’t have a portal. What are OpenNotes? What do you mean you’re shopping for a neurologist? You either want me or you’re wasting my time.’ 

The second doc said, ‘If you email me, my nurse practitioner or I will get back to you within two business days. If you need us sooner, call my office.

Of course, we have OpenNotes. If I get something wrong, let me know. I know a lot about drugs and therapeutics and how they affect groups of people. But, I don’t know anything about you. My job is to learn more about you, and we’ll test different drugs and therapeutics and see what works for you. You are an experiment of one.

Oh, you use acupuncture? You’ll have to educate me. I don’t know much about that. I’m interested in anything that helps my patients. Seems like everything works for someone. And by the way, how’d I do? We could have some fun together.’
Continue reading “Engaged with Sax”