Monday, 26 November 2012

WEGO Nominations!

Really proud to have been nominated for the Blog category! I can't believe how much my blog has taken off in the last 12 months, and how much I have enjoyed doing it - I have just passed 3,000 hits as well, so really excited about continuing The Patient Patient in 2013 ... As long as I am continue to be a patient, there is plenty of inspiration for these posts!

Thank you!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

What to learn?

Source: The Guardian
Recently, I have been given the opportunity to review the syllabus and course specification for a pharmacy Masters course in the UK. A opportunity I feel very privileged to have had, but a task that was far from easy . . .

As I scoured through the specification, the objectives and outcomes, I was struck by the enormous amount of ground work and background the students were given in their first year, to build upon in subsequent years. Thinking back to my experience at medical school (albeit a course at a University with an unusually strong focus on academic science), I recall so much detailed biochemistry, pharmacology and anatomy, much of which was not needed directly during my brief stint of clinical training, but which provided the building blocks for the later learning.

Forgotten Conditions (2020Health Report)

As a patient with a number of rare long term health conditions, I can get quite frustrated with all the coverage and focus that the big common conditions get . . . Which was why I enjoyed reading the Forgotten Conditions: misdiagnosed and unsupported, how patients are being let down report by 2020Health so much, and identified with so much of its content!

The report summarised what sounded like a fascinating round table event that I wish has been to! Acknowledging that people with rare conditions are often "neglected and overlooked", it looked closer at the issues this particular cohort of patients face, as well as recommendations to address those issues. There is a risk that these patients will continue to "languish in the difficult-to-deal-with box", because of the complexities of these rare conditions, not to mention the additional issues caused by their low prevalence.

1940 and 2012: Spot the Difference . . .

I have already raved about the BBC documentary-drama about the invention of the Paralympics (BBC Best of Men), but one of the most memorable clips from that programme has flashed back at me today having read a story in The Times about the young people wasting away in old people's homes (Martin Barrow).

In the 1940's, the only option for young men left disabled by the war was residential homes - I shudder at the recollection of a father suggesting his young son who can not have been older than 20 take up a place in a residential home, and commenting that the one he can in mind "had a good view of the lawn". Before Ludwig Guttmann, there were no alternatives. But yet, seventy years on, many young people are still faced with the prospect of old people's homes.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

NHS Acronym Buster - UPDATED!

Acronyms are apparently a necessary evil within the NHS, with so many complex departments, structures and roles, before the medical jargon even begins!
I always find it refreshing going to meetings as a patient representative and asking every few minutes what that TLA (three letter acronym) means - only to have quite senior NHS come up to me at the end say "Thank God you asked, I had no idea what it was either!!" This website of NHS acronyms is going straight onto my favourites ... and possibly, on the favourites of quite a few NHS staff too . . .

NHS Confederation Acronym Buster

Brilliantly useful - I can't believe how many acronyms there are (and this list doesn't even include many of the medical ones...)

And, there is now an Acronym Buster App too!

The King's Fund Time to Think Differently

The King's Fund have recently launched a new campaign - Time to Think Differently - which is all about change in health and social care. Following #kfthink on Twitter, it is clearly an important topic, that is generating lots of interest! What I like most about the Time to Think Differently campaign is the fantastic collection of infographics they are produced, which you can view here. In particular, the infographic below is one the best I have seen summing up the relationship between LTCs and mental health:

Source: The King's Fund

It is so simple, but gets the message out loud and clear! I have eluded to the 'psychological and emotional side effects' of long-term conditions before, and much of this blog discusses the mental challenges long-term conditions present. Whilst my doctors have been attentive to my physical condition, my MRI scan results and my drug treatments, my mental health has been completed side-lined. I strongly believe that in order to successfully treat my physical conditions, my mental health needs to be addressed as well. It is really encouraging to see the reality of living with long-term conditions recognised at such a level - I hope it can be translated into more holistic care pathways.

This is, of course, just one angle of the diagram: some people have unrelated physical and mental health conditions; whilst others have physical conditions caused by their mental health conditions. Either way, I do hope awareness of the substantial overlap (however caused) will lead to better care in the long-run.

Incidentally, I am fast becoming a big fan of infographics - especially when I see such effective ones like this one!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Self-care vs. self-management

So, it's self-care week this week! I get the feeling that many people use the terms self-care and self-management quite interchangeably. I didn't really think about this until I listened to Medical Matters podcast on Radio 4, where a GP was giving self-care a hard time. Reading a lot of the literature produced for this week as well I have begun to realise that there are important distinctions between the two, and that they are far from indistinguishable.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

UCL Lunch Hour Lectures

I have recently discovered the UCL Lunch-hour Lectures - 40 minutes of fascination over lunch! Last week I listened to Nick Barber ( talk about medicines - "Can't take, won't take - why patients don't take their medicines", and it was the best lunch I have had for a while!

In addition to being fascinating, Nick presented it in such an engaging way - using my favourite tool, patient story and personalising it! For example, he opened by rephrasing the title from patients to "we", since we are all patients, so brought it home and made it relevant!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Further evidence of the power of empathy

The Sunday Times Style ran a short article this week about the power of empathy - only a paragraph hidden among other articles but very interesting none-the-less. Apparently the more empathetic your doctor the less complications of your condition you are likely to have. The study wasn't directly referenced (and I am yet tofind it on-line) but was on 20,000 Italians with diabetes. The patients with highly empathetic doctors had about two-thirds of the complications of those who's doctors scored lower for empathy. The rating of empathy may have incorporated other factors but the headline of the study is certainly interesting and suggests the power of empathy.

What excites me about this new trend in patient experience research is the relation of experience/emotions to hard and fast clinical outcomes - the things people measure and base commissioning and clinical decisions on! Instead of being discounted as "soft", the experience of patients is finally being seen as something that is note just a nice bonus but central to the medical aims of improving people's health.

Language: going back to basics

There are so many unanswered questions in the area of medicine, long-term condition management, the mind-body connection and patient experience, but what is standing in the way of us finding those answers?

In addition to the obvious challenges in these area, the language that we use might be complicating the process.

Do we even have the alphabet we need to start to write the questions that we should be asking?!

For example, in the English language we have plenty of words to describe boredom, but we don't have a word for "doing the right thing".

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) explores the power of our language on our thoughts and behaviours, something that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) also touches on.

If in our personal lives we are happy to explore the role of language, then why not extend that to our professional lives and examine the language we use when posing the big questions in field? Have we got the right building blocks and foundations to go on to answer these questions - the alphabet?! This may sound very hypothetical and abstract but I really do think having a slightly different perspective on things can give a fresh outlook an day just help!