A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Don Berwick speak at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
Berwick now heads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. When he spoke in April, on transparency and how we might simultaneously cut costs and improve care, I thought his talk was pretty good. This morning, through Twitter, I came upon a short clip from a Berlin conference in 2009. Here, he tackles the meaning of patient-centered care. It’s near-perfect:
My favorite lines:
…The errors and unreliability of health care are not the main reason that I fear that inevitable day in which I will become a patient…I can use my own wit to stand guard against them…
…What chills my bones is indignity. It is the loss of influence on what happens to me. It is the image of myself in a hospital gown, homogenized, anonymous, powerless, no longer myself. It is the sound of young nurse calling me “Donald” which is a name I never use, ‘It’s “Don.’…
It is the voice of the doctor saying ‘we think,’ instead of ‘I think,’ and thereby placing that small verbal wedge, the pronoun ‘we,’ between himself as a person and myself as a person…
Why I like this clip so much is that Berwick gets the nuanced language of medicine in a way few doctors, in my experience, do. He’s not so much afraid of data and making decisions or even errors, which are in theory surmountable problems, through better information and education, and despite everything may not lead to a “cure” or even a person’s survival, per se. He most fears being perceived as an object, without respect for his concerns and preferences.
That is my greatest fear, too.