Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Treating disease is easier than treating patients

Patients don't always do what you want or expect them to do. My professors have often said that it's easy to know what needs to be done to fight a disease, but it's hard to make sure the patients actually do it.

Here's an example to illustrate the point. This is true story. No joke.

A women brought her teenage son in my professor's office one day because he had a red eye. He looked at it and saw that it was a bacterial infection and wrote him a prescription for some antibiotics. He gave them the paper with the prescription and told the mom to make sure her son took it every day, and then to come in again for a follow-up exam in a week.

A week later, the mom brought her son in again and the infection had gotten worse. He couldn't understand what was wrong, so he asked her if he's been taking the prescription.

"Yes, every day!" she replied.

"Okay, show me how he does it."

The women pulled out the piece of paper with the prescription on it and she proceeded to rip a small piece of it off, rolled it into a ball, and popped it into the boy's mouth. She had been giving her son pieces of the paper instead of filling the prescription.

Moral of the story: don't assume anything. If you are going to expect the patient to do something, make them show you that they know how to do it before you let them out of the office.


Anna said...

No way. That is crazy.

Kathy Haynie said...

Really and truly? In this century? How could someone think that??? That's worse than my freshmen...

Lisa Lou said...


But seriously. I took a class on how to be a good librarian and one of the things that was emphasized ALL THE TIME is don't assume ANYTHING. People are dumb. Well, that wasn't part of the class, but it's like in a relationship - sometimes you have to seriously have the most basic conversation and feel stupid to make sure you're on the same page with someone you're talking with.

Katie said...

1. Gross.
2. I am only thinking of mean things to say about those people. That is what comes of spending an entire two days with a cranky two year-old.

alison said...

oh my gosh. it's stories like this that make me doubt the human species.

Rebecca said...

This post reminds me of my favoritest book about miscommunication between doctors and patients. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Ann Fadiman. Seriously. It's a worthwhile read.