It’s funny how your own experience speaks louder than prevailing thought.

For years, I have conducted searches for community hospitals that seek to emulate the sophisticated medical procedures typically performed at large academic medical centers.  I have been told time and time again that “we can do it as well, if not better than, XYZ Medical Center without leaving the community.”  Invariably, that means they can do the procedure you need done as well as the academic medical center without creating the hassle of traveling into a major city where traffic abounds and parking is at a premium. Especially something to consider since hospitalization itself already represents wear and tear on family members. 

For years, I have accepted this type of statement without really thinking much about it.   

Until now. 

I mean, it’s a no-brainer that all of us want the BEST medical care possible.  It’s been drilled into us that we, as Americans, deserve the best that science has to offer.  For decades, we were taught to believe that the “best” means the most experienced; so we’ve been prompted to ask questions about how many of these procedures have been performed by our medical team.  We’ve been urged to ask about quality outcomes.  The link has been made between experience and quality.  So, most often, one would be led to think that the academic medical center that has performed hundreds of procedures a year can deliver the best patient experience. Certainly, that was my conclusion.

Until now.

What I’ve now come to believe is that while these academic hot shots are honing their experience versus outcomes data, they forget that there are real patients and real families that need tending to.   I now believe that there are very few cases where we really need the “best of the best” scientific minds performing our medical procedures.  I would rather have a capable, competent, human being caring for me and my loved ones.  And, who’s to say these folks are not present in a community hospital setting?  High tech, high touch does exist.

Yes, I know I am perpetuating an age-old stereotype.  And, I’m not sure why or where the stereotype began; I only know that I lived it.  Clearly, there are caring, smart, sensitive medical professionals in all types of settings, just the same as there are those with little bed-side manner in all types of settings.  

Let me pose the issue another way:  Let’s say that your spouse was treated at an academic medical center of considerable renown. The procedure he/she underwent is not quite routine, but by no means experimental, like an organ transplant, for example.  And, after what looks like a successful procedure, complications occur and, sadly, he dies.  How long would you expect it to take for the doctor in charge (or any member of the medical team, for that matter) to call you?

An hour?  A day?  A week?  Two weeks?  A month?  Longer?

I’ll be sure to let you know.

For the answer, be sure to read Stephanie's follow-up blog, "I choose the high road."

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