The Bridge or The Translator?

When talking to people who aren't in health care, I often describe myself as a translator of health information, from doctor to patient and patient to doctor. In fact, it's WAY more complicated than that.

One of the huge gaps right now in health care is that no one is talking to the caregivers and the caregivers, who are often a group rather than an individual, are frustrated about not being heard and not having a way to communicate. For example, my 90-year-old grandmother has eight living children, and she lives at home with one of them. Three of them live out of state. One of them is an RN, and one is a nursing home director. Her grandchildren number almost 30, and a number of them are health care professionals. How can Grandma's care team communicate effectively with all of these stakeholders? They often aren't even communicating effectively between her gastrointestinal specialist and her cardiologist and her physical therapist. 

If her daughter the RN is at the appointment, she knows the meds and the sx hx (surgical history) and the jargon.  If it's her engineering son, he wants to know about her hip function and rehab options. If it's her daughter from the nursing home, she wants to know how to engage her brain and hands for improved cognition. And whoever interacts with the care team for that appointment needs to know how best to communicate with the family. It's not easy dealing with elderly, frail patients with multiple conditions. Nor is it easy to understand that her support system is full of adults with their own ways of viewing the situation -- plus they need to talk to their other siblings about "what's going on with Mom?"

This "soft work" matters. Gaps in care and coordination grow most costly over time, and opportunities to maximize health care outcomes and costs is lost. We've grown accustomed to the concept of the health care team, but let's recognize there's a team behind the patient, too. 

For me, I've discovered I'm passionate about bridging clinical and patient communications in all the variations: from doctor to patient, caregiver to care team, health educator to low health literacy learner, patient advocacy to physicians, and more. The conversation needs to continue happening, at all the levels. If I can help as a translator, a collector of information and a facilitator of conversations, I will. If I need to bend to be the bridge, I'll figure out how.