Hospitalism (or anaclitic depression in its sublethal form) was a diagnosis used in the 1930s to describe infants who wasted away while in the hospital. It is now understood that this wasting disease was mostly caused by a lack of social contact between the infant and its caregivers, in other words “failure to thrive.”
Although the sterile environment of a modern hospital with intake, instruments, scanning, and screening offers physicians control over a medical condition, it is not necessarily conducive to a patient’s optimum outcome. A forced assignment for emergent care simply does not offer the quality emotional component that a conscious, personally driven selection of a surgeon in private practice does. Remember: You only have one chance to make a first impression and to ensure that the patient’s connection with your practice thrives.
The advent of modern technologies has propelled medical/surgical practices to new levels of efficiency. A patient can now book appointments via ZocDoc, which is confirmed via e-mail, with new/returning patient forms forwarded to him or her, and then on to our practice via an online portal or in-office tablet, device, or kiosk, then preconsultation education sent out via Eyemaginations’ Echo platform, followed by a link to directions to the office that sync to GPS (all before the patient sits in the exam chair), and finally, his or her tests are uploaded instantly and transported to the physician’s attention courtesy of electronic medial records! As an administrator, I can hold virtual meetings, send texts, post messages, add documents, and update calendars on my intraoffice portal from anywhere at any time of day, and deposit payroll and electronic submissions with the touch of my finger. Progress. Or is it?
Although I appreciate efficiency, clarity, and formality, simple gestures make the difference in easing nerves, building trusting relationships, and giving a personal feel to what will be a life-changing experience. Patients today have high expectations for outcomes. They can have it all, and to accomplish this, the surgeon needs it all. Latest technologies, innovations, tools, and a great supporting cast are essential, but a real connection is only fostered with personal contact.
We offer laser cataract surgery (Lensar, Inc.), ORA with VerifEye (WaveTev Vision) intraoperative aberrometry, OPD-Scan III wave scans (Marco), Scheimpflug imaging, specular microscopies, 3-D surgical guidance, premium IOLs, excimer lasers, LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System (TearScience), Tear Lab Osmolality test (TearLab Corporation), intrastromal ring segments, corneal collagen crosslinking, point-of-care diagnostics (Rapid Pathogen Screening, Inc.), and microinvasive glaucoma surgery.
All of this speaks to the progressive nature of an innovative practice and looks great on a website or a bio card. These high-tech tools will get people in the door—but it is the personal touch, communication, and often the nonverbal communication that will truly ingratiate you with a patient. The bedrock of the premium package is the low-tech personal touch.
Technology facilitates efficiency, greater portability, and independence with respect to our daily activities. Smartphones, tablet computers, GPS, Bluetooth technologies, and wireless networking are entrenched in the mainframe of most successful medical practice, and arguably are at the top of the neosocial value system. Are we looking down at our devices more than looking up at faces? Low-tech services do not draw on the power grid, require no advance notice and, at the risk of being sappy, are carbon-neutral and yield a high emotional quotient at a low cost.
If we undervalue these simple things, we run the risk of a resurgence in hospitalism. Effective communication requires a lot—including eye contact. Using our genius is essential, but that’s only half the battle. Knowing when NOT to use technology is an integral component (excuse the pun) of quality care. Don’t forget to smile.