Author Archive for Larry Patten – Page 2

Death Sneers at Schedules

RumiA long time ago, friends asked my wife and me for support during the birth of their child. Such a privilege! We set aside a day for the wondrous event. Everyone was ready: parents, nurses, doctors, and yours truly. But the baby hadn’t gotten the memo. Hours went by. Labor continued. A sunset eventually became a sunrise. Labor lurched into a second day.

Though we may think birth is predictable, it’s not. You’ll ask the friendly obstetrician for the birth date and she’ll provide a day or range of days. The expectant parents mark it on the calendar. They are ready with answers for the inevitable question: hey, when is your baby due?

Except that labor can sometimes seem to lead to birth in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

Except it can also feel like giving birth lasts longer than the winter snow melting in Wisconsin. Read More →

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Watch Out for HIPAA!

Hippo

HIPAA . . . or did you say Hippo?

When hearing the acronym HIPAA, I often imagine a hippo.

A hippopotamus (meaning water horse from the Greek) is the third largest land animal. Cumbersome and thick-skinned, it appears to have been created by a committee forced into decisions before a deadline eliminated funding. Remarkably, the massive mammal is fast, whether running or swimming. Don’t linger if a hippo suddenly veers toward you for a meet and greet!

Maybe I think of hippo and HIPAA for another reason: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could also be labeled big and cumbersome.

Don’t get in its way either!

HIPAA irks me. I rarely remember the acronym’s letters: HIPPA, HPPA, or HIPAH? And I usually fail to correctly identify what each of the letters represent. Doesn’t the “I” mean Information and shouldn’t the “P” be for Patient? Why, please, was the awkward “portability” ever considered as a useful word for the average consumer?

And HIPAA was designed with the average consumer in mind. The simplest way of understanding HIPAA is that it protects an individual’s medical and health data. (If you want a more complicated official explanation, you can look here.) Every health-related agency, including hospices, must follow HIPAA guidelines. If HIPAA is the Pied Piper, health care agencies are the ones trailing right behind. Every consumer—a.k.a., you the citizen, you the patient, you who accumulates massive amounts of health-related data from birth—is guaranteed privacy because of the 1996 act passed during President Clinton’s administration.

My dislike of HIPAA has other reasons. Read More →

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Cancer is a Copy-Cat?

Cancer image

I considered asking a nurse about supra glottis, but I like to limit how often I appear stupid about medical terminology . . .

In the weekly team meetings at my hospice, there is a printed list of our patients.

The sparse information on these stapled pages is confidential:

  • patient’s name and age
  • their doctor
  • date of entry into hospice care
  • clinical staff assigned to the patient
  • their disease

I will honestly admit that the names blur. Because I’ve lived in this community for several decades, I’ll occasionally recognize a name. But usually not, since there are about two million residents in our region. Every week, scores of patients appear on the spreadsheet, some newly admitted, some served by our staff for weeks and months, and even—more rarely—for over a year.

But I study their names. I try to remember each is a gift. I try to remember they are brothers, aunts, fathers, grandmas, best friends, moms, bosses, colleagues, and children. My hospice has cared for members of street gangs. We have cared for the rich and famous. Are they that different? Ralph Waldo Emerson bluntly wrote, “Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.” Read More →

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