ER doc turned patient found focus on test results fallible

Patient-centered care is a term that seems to get thrown around a lot, but how often is it actually practiced? The term implies that the patient is an integral part of the care process, not simply the subject of a treatment plan. It is something that an emergency department doctor mistakenly thought had become the “new normal” across the nation.

This particular doctor experienced what it was like to be on the other end of the care spectrum when she was struck by a car, and she definitely wouldn’t describe the care that she received as patient-centered. In her mind, medicine is both a science and an art; medical tests and listening to the patient are both equally important in diagnosis. She only experienced half of that definition throughout her hospital stay.

The problem as she saw it was the ER team’s reliance on tests to determine appropriate care. It all started when she was admitted and asked if she was experiencing any pain after being the pedestrian in an “auto-ped” collision. It seemed like an obvious question, but she complied and gave the staff specifics about that pain instead of just saying “yes.” But when she described severe pain in her knee and backside, the ER staff failed to take any tests targeted at diagnosing possible causes of that pain.

The tests that the hospital conducted — based on what was likely a standard set — failed to capture her injuries, and this was no surprise to her. The staff told her that the tests they chose to conduct didn’t show a diagnosable medical issue, which meant that she must be discharged despite the continuing pain she described. When she finally tried to walk and couldn’t even stand, they said they were forced to admit her at that point as if it was an inconvenience that went against better medical judgment.

When it was all said and done about four days and several physicians later, it was determined that she had a medial collateral ligament tear and a contusion of both the sciatic and the gluteal nerves.

Emergency departments that are too busy, chaotic and centered only on tests the doctors determine are necessary without consulting the patient can lead to mistakes. Emergency room malpractice is a major issue for California residents, and those that suffer harm as a result have the choice to seek compensation with the assistance of a Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney.

Source: The Washington Post, “Hit by a car, an emergency doctor experiences firsthand the shortcomings in ER care,” Charlotte Yeh, June 9, 2014

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