Charlotte Yeh is the Chief Medical Officer of AARP Services, and has had a long career in government and as a practicing emergency physician. (Our paths first crossed years ago when we were both working on pre-hospital care reform in Massachusetts.) She wrote a piece published in the current issue of Health Affairs about her experience as a patient after being hit by a car while crossing the street in Washington, DC. Read it. After detailing her frustration with the clinicians in the acute setting more focused on protocols and diagnostic testing than on the patient before them, and her satisfaction with the clinicians in the rehabilitation setting who asked her to define her own goals, she concludes:

If I resolved anything on my care journey, it is that the “North Star” guiding all care must be providers using “any means possible,” to know the patient, hear the patient, and respond to what matters to the patient. It should make no difference where you practice; any provider can do this. Emergency departments can’t hide behind the excuses of “we’re too busy” or “it’s too chaotic” to avoid connecting with every patient.

It is time to frame a new paradigm of care, a consumer-driven approach that concentrates attention on the art of medicine. This might begin with a reinvigorated focus on patient-centered care and mastering the skills of listening, empathy, and patient partnership.

Strong words from a clinical leader, published in in a journal that is a key forum for health policy discussion. Here’s hoping that she is able to engage others in this conversation in a meaningful way.

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