Tag

lived experience

Power, Fear, Lack of Empathy

By | Advocate, Family man, Leader | 6 Comments

Photo of Ruth and Ruben van Leeuwen circa 1947

I was riding my trike this morning at 6:30. It was beautiful, dry, cool, few people out. My pathological optimism has escaped me.  I needed serenity following my recent MS infusion. I was hoping that I’d find clarity for the post I started yesterday about health data, health research, learning, and adjusting. I’m underwhelmed by our collective ability to learn and change based on experience and evidence. Where do I go with this germ of a post?

But no, I’m getting more and more agitated with every pedal. First, immigration and refugees. Then Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. I can’t shake it. No serenity, no nifty pearl for my post. Just escalating sickened outrage about power, fear, lack of empathy and its effect on our community well-being. Deep breaths, mindful meditation have no effect.

My parents, both Holocaust survivors, were not religious. But I heard Love thy neighbor as thyself often and I watched them live it.  My mom, when she finally began to speak about her experiences in hiding, emphasized her gratitude to the people who hid her at great risk to themselves. She would say, I wasn’t brave, they were.  I just survived. They were the heroes. The Trump administration is determined to wipe out immigration – both legal and illegal. It makes no sense to me. It flies in the face of decency, empathy, common sense, and evidence. Since this is a healthcare blog dedicated to empowering people as they travel toward best health, I’ll stick to that lens. Most people want to live the best life possible with their families, contributing something to their communities. This I believe. If they can’t be safe in the home, they want to move if they are able. If they can’t be safe in their countries, they want to emigrate. Even in the face of great risk. We in the US are fortunate.

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

So we do the work to assimilate! Is that so hard? It’s moral, ethical, empathetic, right. Practically, the fastest growing occupations in the US are home health aides, personal care assistants, medical assistants, software developers, nursing assistants, and registered nurses. All positions facing shortages.  All positions affecting our communities’ health. Who do we think is going to take care of us and develop tools that support our care as we age? Immigrants.

Second, Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in the face of accusations of sexual assault. Again, outrage about power, fear, lack of empathy and its effect on our community well-being. Our Senate Judiciary consists of old white men without lived experience of assault and powerlessness (or they haven’t come out yet). Maybe the most powerful office in the country with a lifetime appointment affecting the wellbeing of all of us.

OK, other people can opine on these topics better than I can.

For me, the central feature is power – the imbalance of power. Those in power want to stay in power at all costs. I think it’s a human condition of the ages. Evidence, curiosity, empathy, have little role. We know that this imbalance of power is evident in our healthcare business practices and our healthcare decision-making. Fortunately, I still have a reservoir of pathological optimism. My parents lived through the Holocaust, the country survived the Vietnam experience. I believe that there are cycles of learning and relearning, and relearning again. I believe that the response to power imbalance is to get more people with lived experience and less power a seat at the table, especially the tables of governance.  For immigration and our government, our power is in the ballot box. Elect people with lived experience who grew up farther from power and wealth. Please vote and help your neighbor register to vote.  And I’ll get back to my advocacy to bring more people with lived experience to the tables of governance, design, operations, and learning in healthcare delivery, business, research, and technology.

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Advocacy Pearls

By | Advocate | No Comments

Someone asked me for my pearls of wisdom from my journey as a patient/caregiver activist. Pearls? Wisdom? Well, here goes:

  • Show up, listen, then speak up.
  • Do your homework – prep for calls and meetings.
  • Keep asking questions until you understand what the group, the research, the treatment, the service is trying to accomplish for whom. Then think, “So what? Why should we care? How does this affect us?”
  • The people around the table who don’t identify as patients or caregivers don’t know as much about life as you do.  They specialize in whatever. You specialize in the journey – in the impact of the policy, the technology, the service, the setting on real people.  You are as much of an expert as anyone else.
  • Open doors for more patient/caregiver experts. As expert as you are, you’re one voice.
  • Deliver on your commitments. Under commit, over deliver.
  • Build your network – Google or LinkedIn attendees and add them to your network/contact list.
  • Leverage your network – they understand asking for help.
  • Feed your network – support others as much as you’re able, whenever you’re able. You’ll learn something, create goodwill, and release endorphins.
  • If it feels like wasted time, it is. Vote with your feet. You only have so much gas in your tank.
  • Failure is precious. Learn from it.
  • Have a blast.

I’m only pretty good at this stuff. What are your pearls?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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Helping Hands Everywhere

By | ePatient | 2 Comments

I took my foldable electric wheelchair solo on my trip to Philadelphia this week. My last solo wheelchair experience was in New York City in 1977 when I took a course at NYU’s Rusk Institute of Physical Rehabilitation. On the second day of the two-week course, I spent the whole day in a wheelchair by myself.  It was terrifying. I got stuck in a pothole crossing Fifth Avenue during rush hour.  The ground rules were, never get out of the chair. A homeless woman ran over and pushed me across before I got run over by the honking yellow cabs. On Tuesday, in Philly, I got stuck again in a small sidewalk pothole and a man, sitting on the curb with an “I’m homeless” sign came over and pushed me out. I saw him again on my way back from the restaurant. I handed him $10 and thanked him for helping me. He wouldn’t take it, I was just helping you out. I thanked him again and told him, you helped me and now I’m helping you. He took it. Read More

Paying Patient Experts

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Consumer, ePatient | 2 Comments

You’ve heard the Chief xxx Officer saying, I don’t need to listen to patient experts, we’re all patients. Gee, what do you say to this inexperience? You’ve also heard the empathy and born-again drive of the Chief xxx Officer who has a chronic illness, was recently hospitalized, or is the caregiver of a family member with chronic illness. Nothing can replace the experience of spending a day in a hospital bed or navigating your neighborhood for a day in a wheelchair.

I attended the Society of Participatory Medicine’s first conference a couple of months ago. Some businesses making big money from patient data describing their volunteer patient advisory panels or providing gift cards to their patient experts. We’d like to pay more, but it’s what we can afford.

I’ve been a reviewer of funding requests since 2013 for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). PCORI pays all stakeholder reviewers (patients, clinicians, scientists, administrators) the same stipend-a reasonable amount.

In 2013 and 2014 funding applications I reviewed listed either no payment or $50 gift cards for patient stakeholders on their Research Advisory Boards. By 2016 many funding applications listed $500-$1000 stipends. In 2017 I saw an application that budgeted for the payment of respite care for caregiver experts’ carees. We’ve come a long way.

The US has a love-hate relationship with paying for value. It’s like the Golden Rule: easy to say, tough to do. Just look at the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax bill. I digress… The healthcare industry values credentials as a proxy for knowledge- whether or not they know what the acronyms mean. Acronyms = expertise. Credentials usual mean deep expertise in a narrow subject. We willingly pay for deep and narrow with credentials. Patients can have deeper knowledge about a narrower subject than those credentialed. We don’t have a means to calculate that value nor a willingness to pay for it. Read More

From the Inside Looking Out

By | Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man | No Comments

At the #PCORI2017 Annual Meeting, Alan Alda showed us a simple mirror improv exercise (remember Groucho and Chico Marx in Duck Soup?). Alan first showed us him mirroring an audience member, then the audience member mirroring him, and finally, them mirroring each other at the same time. It was an exercise in empathy.  Afterwards, someone at my table said,

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.

I first heard these words many years ago from a peer support professional describing the experience of depression and addiction. I understand this better now that I’m a person with a chronic illness. I work hard to explain what’s inside to my family and other members of my health team.  Often I don’t know or I don’t have words. Mindful meditation helps tremendously – deciding to become friends with what ails me. It’s all me and I love me. I’m not sure if it helps me explain, but it helps me know myself. And for sure, it increases my empathy when I’m on the outside looking in. Thanks, Alan, for reminding us.

See also other posts about Improv and

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Learning from What Doesn’t Work

Transformational Leaders

Dragging or Walking?

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Researcher | 2 Comments

In its simplest form communication is who, what and how.  Who needs to communicate? What do they need to communicate? How will they communicate? Our healthcare depends on communication between all members of the health team. That communication exists in relationships.  What do people at the center of care and professionals in healthcare look for in their relationships? Much as with any relationship – access when needed, exchange of information, listening, respect, speaking the same language, understanding each other’s values and priorities, follow through. Not easy in the best of circumstances. I’m amazed that we expect consistently good communication in healthcare. How can there be? Communication in health care is fascinating! Anyway….

I am a member of the Academy of Communication in Healthcare. I went to Baltimore this week to attend the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare and the Health Literacy Annual Research Conference. My attendance was sponsored by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) as part of their Ambassador program.

My goodness, an International Conference on Communication in Healthcare!! Still my beating heart.

As in most healthcare conferences these days the buzzword is Patient-centered. Buzzwords are weird. They make me suspicious. Patient-centered often feels to me like health professionals dragging the patient into the center with them (as in making sure we understand them and do what they want). Sometimes, however, patient-centered appears to mean empathy (walking in someone else’s shoes). So what is it? Dragging or walking? Read More