Two ERs and an Urgent Care: What I learned during a very long Saturday

By Blog, EHR
Image of an ER

Last Saturday was a doozy. What started out as a normal weekend morning – some quality time with my 2 year old and catching up on the chores I ignored most of the week – turned into a day consumed by visits to two different ERs and a pediatric urgent care.

ER Visit number 1

My two-year old likes to eat every meal and snack as if he’s training for one of those eating competitions – shoving food into his mouth at a record pace. Since it was a Saturday, I let him have a little extra treat, and gave him one of those little bites muffin packs (yum!). Shorty after eating, I noticed he was struggling a bit to catch his breath.

It was clear he wasn’t fully choking, but for a kid as experienced at snacking as he is, it wasn’t normal. It scared me enough to have my first trip to the ER with my child. Terrifying.

Thankfully, we were quickly discharged from the local hospital since his breathing was back to normal and his chest x-ray was clear.

An Urgent care & a Second ER Visit

Once we were home, we decided to go outside and enjoy the first day of spring in the backyard and have some lunch. That’s when the real trouble began – suddenly my little guy was struggling to breath and wheezing.

Knowing that we live ~30 minutes from a pediatric urgent care, we made the decision to skip the return ER visit in favor of going to the peds urgent care;, as it’s one of the top children’s health systems in the country so we thought it best to head to the providers who know kids best. We hoped it was just some residual reaction from the morning episode and we’d be dismissed as overly cautious parents. That was not the case.

After an exam and some nose suction to get mucus cleared out (sorry for the visual), we were told to go to the closest ER because his oxygen levels were low enough for them to be concerned, which was not the ER we had already been to earlier that morning.

At this point, we had visited two different health systems, and we were on our way to a third. All located within 15-20 mile of each other.

Luckily my son was checked out, given a breathing treatment and we were discharged with a few follow ups to do and a very tired toddler.

One thing I can say for sure – working in health tech has completely changed the lens I look through when I am dealing with my or my family’s healthcare encounters. So, here are some of the things I noticed in my marathon of a day..

Resiliency

I am, and probably always will be, awed by the resilience of our healthcare workers. These professionals have had the year from hell dealing with the COVID pandemic, and every single person we encountered that day, from techs to nurses to doctors, came in to our room with a smile and a dose of compassion as they tried their best to comfort an anxious mom and an antsy kid.

Interoperability is a must:

I know I went to 3 different health systems in one day, which is rare, and I know they all have different systems and databases that don’t talk to each other. But – I really wish they did. By visit 3, I was almost out of breath trying to explain our day and remember all of the things each doctor had said. I’m positive our process would have been streamlined if each provider was able to share their notes in real time. My role in that day should have mostly been “stressed out mom”, with maybe a bit of “Toddler wrangler”, but I also had to be the “information hub”. What if I wasn’t able to be the information hub? While we all know family plays a critical role in care continuity, it shouldn’t be a requirement to high level care.

Advocating can be hard – but it’s important:

I have to admit, I had a secret weapon that made advocating easier for me than it is for many families – Dr. Airan-Javia. If you know CareAlign, you know that our CEO is a practicing hospitalist. As I’ve learned many times over, she’s also an all around wonderful human. She and her husband (who is a pediatric ENT, and also a great human) talked me through many of the potential things that could be going on and gave me guidance. It was their advice to push for a breathing treatment, which I’m sure is what got us home before bedtime. Not to mention, I felt like I had more control over the situation. I was lucky to have them, but my situation is unique. Our healthcare system needs to be easier to navigate for patients and their families.

All that clicking:

Something I wasn’t very conscious of before I started working for CareAlign was how lacking health tech is for clinicians. Even with the most integrated EHR, each provider we saw had to click multiple times to do what seemed like simple tasks. Additionally, they had to do it while trying to get information from me and inputting it into multiple different screens. I can’t imagine how overloaded their brains are by the end of their shifts – I can barely type a text and talk to my husband about dinner – and none of that is impacting someone’s health.

I have the unique privilege to be both an insider and an outsider in the healthcare world. Working in healthtech, I can sympathize with clinician’s frustrations more than the typical healthcare outsider would, but I have only experienced them from the patient point of view. Once we had the “all clear” and knew our marathon day was ending, all I could reflect on was…Imagine how much better our system would be for all of us if those incredibly resilient providers had tools that made their work easier.