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From Lewis Low, M.D.: On turning 50, colonoscopies and the patient experience

December 2012

Lewis Low, M.D.

I turned 50 this year. And I scheduled the requisite colonoscopy. Like most folks, I wasn’t thrilled with undergoing the procedure.

Nonetheless, like a dutiful patient, I arrived a few minutes early for my 10:30 appointment. What happened from here on was eye opening and got me thinking about how important the patient experience is in the ongoing transformation of care.

By 10:45 I was in the pre-procedure area, being asked about my history and having an IV placed. At 11:00 the procedure was under way.

Thanks to propofol, by 11:30 I was walking out the door on my way to eating a chorizo scramble! In hindsight, the hardest part of the procedure was needing to be NPO.

Here’s what I had expected: be ready to wait a lot (I brought a book to read), have my dignity challenged (have you seen those gowns?!), spend a fair amount of time recovering, then chalk it all up as a “lost day” while my body metabolized the sedatives. 

Instead, this was the most efficient, effective and ultimately worthwhile health care encounter that I, as a patient, have ever experienced.

These days all the talk is about value in health care. As a physician and administrator, I generally equate value with efficiency and outcomes. But in my recent experience as a patient, the most valuable things to me were being treated in a caring and dignified way, as well as getting a good outcome.

Health care changes are churning around us and we are faced with many unknowns. Through it all, we must remain focused on our patients. We each may not be able to directly impact structural change or even reinvented processes, but we can ensure that patients are valued and respected, that the care we provide is proactive and efficient, and that it is dedicated to each individual’s well-being. I think if we do, we’ll weather the swirl and emerge with a better overall system.

My best wishes to you for a healthy and happy holiday season.