Do You Have a Seat at the Healthcare Table?
Throughout life, we take on many roles and sit at many tables. For example, you might be a mother, child, sibling, employee, or member of a community. While carefully working to master important life skills, being diagnosed with ovarian cancer represents unchartered territory.
What does it mean to have a seat at the table?
In any situation that places a person in crisis, there may be the opportunity to learn new ways of being. In effect, it can cause a person to derail; or encourage them to learn ways to cope and survive. Be open before settling down to attend to the business of the rest of your life.
As in business, organizations function through well-defined meetings creating a forum to exchange information and resolve items on a pre-planned agenda. Business leaders typically value employees who are willing to speak up and reach timely decisions. There is little room for reading minds and guessing the urgency of the business at hand.
Goals and outcomes
Membership at the table creates an air of respect and expectation. An invitation to business meetings provides the attendees with access to first-hand information. It also allows members to process information and influence change. As a result, there are many opportunities to bring in experts to aid in real-time problem-solving.
To maintain confidentiality and structure, important meetings generally occur in traditional conference room settings. Yet, advances in technology stimulated alternative options with internet applications such as "Zoom" or "Google Meet" expand membership to members from any location. This development proved to be an important advantage when COVID 19 emerged. The action assured the confidence that the right people are in the right seats, at the right table, at the right time.
How this is important to you as a consumer of care?
Healthcare is one of the largest industries in the world. It is a complex set of profit/non-profit hospitals and hospital systems. It also includes insurance and pharmaceutical companies, research entities, supplies and equipment, physicians, nurses, other providers, and caregivers. Most important of all it includes you, the patient, and the consumer of care. Remember without patients, hospitals and providers find little to no meaning.
The standardization of cancer care
Fortunately, cancer programs encourage a cross-culture between large urban and small rural facilities. The larger facilities have higher volumes of unique cancer diagnoses. Many consider the larger the better; thereby, motivating choice in a facility. However, the standardization of care using the latest research protocols adds confidence to the level of care provided.
The world of cancer treatment assists the patients by introducing quantifiable requirements. It is no longer enough to place a billboard indicating that a hospital offers excellent care. For example, Certified Comprehensive Cancer Centers are reviewed for processes and outcomes. Therefore, excellence in care is based upon data that is measured and quantified.
How will you use your place at the table?
With the trauma of a potentially devastating diagnosis, many cancer patients may not be aware of all of the care decisions happening around them. The patient may not realize that on a given day, providers meet to discuss findings that impact care decisions. To our advantage, providers recognize that patients do not all come in one size or mindset. Some of us and our families desire access to information to better assist in our acceptance. As a result, most facilities focusing on cancer care are multidisciplinary. This means that specialists in Surgical, Medical, Radiation Oncology, Pathology, and Nursing are likely to be "at the table" and coordinating our care.
Taking your seat at the table
Learning you have cancer is a monumental life event. If you are inclined to be a participant in your care, there are ways you can have a voice at your table. Honoring you as an individual, there is no one right answer to the questions about participation in your healthcare. Yet, know there is value in taking time to consider your desired level of involvement at the Healthcare Table.
Some thoughts and questions to consider:
- Are you confident you and your family are receiving all the information you need?
- Consider measures to confirm you hold a respected place at your Healthcare table. Ask for assessments.
- Take advantage of using your provider's patient portal. Read after-visit summaries and findings.
- Ask questions when there are comments you don't understand.
- Find out if your provider is comfortable sharing information that may be difficult to hear.
- Express interest by asking, "Are there other things I need to know that I did not know to ask?
- If you want to know a sense of time left based on your stage of cancer, it is acceptable to ask the question.
- When a care team is confident they are providing the best options, they are likely to assist you in gaining a second opinion at any time in your treatment.
- Be ready to nurture yourself and at times allow others to provide you care.
- Be prepared that family and friends have needs as they anticipate loss.
- Consider establishing a "Family/Friends Table" where you model open communication and problem-solving.
How many of these self-care items do you want to try this month?