Friday, July 12, 2013

Hospitals and the Deaf Patient

Before I had my knee surgeries, one of the first things I did was go to the hospital where I was to have the first surgery and visit the Patient Relations office. I talked with them about interpreters and passed on to them my surgery date, my surgeon, and how long I will be there. This was probably my most important contact.

From there, let them know to pass on to other medical people that they will be dealing with a deaf person via the relay. In my case, email was used with the Patient Relations contact as well as the surgical scheduler in the surgeon's office. With the scheduler, when it came to surgery dates, I did it in person since there was some paperwork such as patient instructions and hospital information.

While you're doing all this, visit the financial office of the hospital to pass on your medical insurance information if possible. This may save a little time with checking in.

The next important thing to have is an advocate. What this person does is make your medical decisions when you are unable to do so. Filling out an Advanced Directive is the next best thing to do. While the chances for death or complications are small, it still helps to have both advocate and the directives if something arises.

When I went to the rehab facility after the first knee surgery, there were a few problems (More on the Knees and Surgery - Part 3, Part 4). At first, the people didn't believe there was such a thing as the ADA. They had never heard of captioning. When one of the coordinators talked with Jamie about interpreters with me in the room, one of the first things the coordinator said blew my mind.

"We're here to make money."

Is that something you want to hear when you're recovering from surgery and need some rehab and therapy to regain at least some use of what was operated on? I didn't get an interpreter for a few days. The business office had to compliment Jamie when I went there by myself saying that she was a good advocate.

Sure, they're there to earn money to pay the staff and to take care of their patients, but that kind of comment is pretty cold and uncaring. This is when the advocate is most needed since this person can more easily give the facility more information about these unknown things.

When I had inpatient therapy, which included in-home nursing support and physical therapy, we arranged our appointments ahead of time, and I watched for the person. Then we went from there.

With outpatient physical therapy, it's important for the patient and therapist(s) to find a way to communicate, since not all physical therapy offices will be able to provide interpreters. In my case, I made sure the therapists in the office knew about me. One thing that helped was a paper showing all the exercises I would be doing and watching others do their exercises at times if I was to do what they were doing.

Before I had the hip surgery, I had a contact in the first hospital related to a joint class, which told about what to expect pre- and post-surgery. This person was my contact who arranged for the interpreter for pre-surgical testing and the joint class at the second hospital before the first hip surgery.

Fortunately, I didn't need to do as much footwork as I did before since the contact I mentioned above took care of everything and it was also the 2010 legal case mentioned in Surgery and the Hips - Part 1.

Remember that it is the initial communications between the patient and the health provider(s) in the beginning that can go a long way.

In this day of high tech and the Internet, there's no excuse for anyone to claim it's difficult to contact the deaf person when there's also email, texting, and instant messaging besides the relay. A little low tech like keeping paper and pen around goes a long way as well.

Next - Part 2

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