Health care professionals see healthcare differently when it gets personal
Dr. David Lee Scher has 25 years of clinical medical experience as cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist, hospital department administrator, clinical trial investigator, Chair of the Institutional Review Board and Medicare committee representative.
You’d be forgiven if you assumed he’d have few surprises in store in treating patients, so when his 78-year old mother was diagnosed with both lung and pancreaticcancer, he fully expected her to freak right out.
“She’s fine with the cancer and treatment. What she really hates is the loss of independence that comes with the oxygen tank she’s attached to. She calls it her ‘dog on a leash I have to walk around with.’ It made me sensitive for the first time that the small things affecting activities of daily living might mean more to a patient than facing a terminal illness.”
Until recently, Scher’s mother worked, and was actively involved in medical decision. Another adjustment: she’s now delegated most of those decisions over to her son, who always keeps his sibs in the loop.
“My mom recognized that the chemo’s affected her thinking and processing abilities.”
As the doctor amongst three sibs, David is entrusted with the medical aspects. “My twin, who lives nearer, takes care of some of her day to day needs and our younger sister who’s in the business sector oversees important financial decisions.” Dr. Scher recognizes how lucky his mother is to have that available expertise and division of labour;
“I know there are often fights and frustration amongst sibs who may not have any of those skill sets and didn’t have to think about learning until a health crisis hits.”
He’s now experiencing the ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ aspect of medical care: where there may be many specialists involved but it’s often not clear who to call with symptoms of even a cold or fever.
“Patients could be helped by firstly knowing they don’t need to know a diagnosis before calling a physician. Just realizing something is wrong is important. They also need to know who to call for basic health questions, and to ask for a ‘quarterback’ doctor who coordinates care.”
Scher also sees the caregiver as an integral part of the management process:
“I’ve told a man he needs an ICD – implantable cardiac defibrillator. He says ‘I don’t want this’ but his wife says, ‘wait a minute. What about me? I want you to be around a few more years’ which is followed the husband’s enlightened look.”
After having left medicine two years ago to pursue a full-time consulting career, Scher has decided to return part time (while maintaining his consulting) to seeing patients, take his patient experience ‘learnings’ with him and sharing some amazing technologic tools to improve his own patients’ experiences.