Amazing device improves patient/doctor communication!

Most medical devices can't be found at REI. This one can.

Dr. Gary Lee is Valley Medical Center’s director of palliative care, and he’s using a new high-tech wonder in his daily communication with his patients.

Yes, I know it may not look that amazing. But consider: This portable, light-weight camping stool allows Gary to carry it wherever he goes, and when he’s ready to speak with a patient at the bedside, he unfolds it and sits at eye-level with the person in the bed.

Barbara Zahner, Chaplain here at VMC, puts it like this: “the presence of this simple, low cost piece of equipment changes the environment from clinical to remembrances of comforting campfires, cozy conversations, and the grandeur and spirit of nature and creation.”

Gary first read about this in the New England Journal of Medicine, and has found it a real game-changer: The national statistics are that a patient is interrupted by their doctor (at most) 18 seconds into being heard…and in Gary’s practice, that just won’t do.

You see, Gary’s work involves end-of-life discussions with patients and families, where listening is a critical part of delivering care. If done right, the alert reader of this blog will remember that palliative care can not only provide dignity, it can actually extend life.

A simple camping stool! How wonderful to slow that hurry-up dynamic between doctor and patient, letting both feel more present and “in the moment”. Anyone can do this, right Gary? “Well, it requires training”, he told me…and remember, VMC is the teaching hospital for Stanford: “We teach medical students that the most important part of the stethoscope is the six inches between the ear pieces. By the same token, the most important part of the camping stool is – well, you get the idea.”

We’ve all heard it before, and it’s so true: Before they care how much you know, they have to know how much you care.

4 replies
  1. Kristine
    Kristine says:

    What a wonderfully simple idea for these very special patients… Just the idea of a physician getting down to eye level to speak with ANY patient in a hospital bed would be a very personable experience for both doctor and patient.
    I’ve only been admitted in the hospital a couple of time, and the doctor always seemed rushed standing by the bedside. Perhaps SCVMC should be teaching this technique for all beside encounters!

  2. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    Looks simple but powerful. Sometimes the intention, and the gesture of being there for your patient is what the patient appreciate the most. Way to go Garry!

  3. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    I applaud Dr. Lee for his compassion and patient needs driven standard of care. I hope this method is adopted by other health care providers and is supported by their administration to allow the time for a quality conversation that can change the outcome of a patient’s situation in a positive way.

  4. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I agree. People in general are in way too much of a hurry, especially now with all of the time contraints on the physicians per patients. Gary’s idea is simple yet very effective in someones very last wishes and it not only gives the patient comfort that the most important person in their life at that moment is truly taking time to listen and care, but also the family and loved ones can share in that same comfort. Way to go Gary!


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