Healthcare’s Forgotten Patient


Hi, I exist.     ~ Said by anyone overlooked, if they could only find their voice

The best writing comes from a passion within based on things that matter to each of us, wouldn’t you agree? Often, what matters most in healthcare (life) is what is right in front of us! I’m talking now about the overlooked patient: the compliant elderly grandmother slipping deeper into dementia, the low-SES baby the doesn’t cry but fails to thrive, the weary cancer patient on chemo round three who just doesn’t want to be labeled a complainer.

You know these archetypes, yet do you see them?

In healthcare, we run toward the sexy, the new, the cure, and for good reason – progress lifts everyone as a society – we can’t think of only ourselves, we have to look at the greater good. Echoes of Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons should be ringing bells for you here. While commonly associated with the depletion of natural resources, we can stretch it to not being selfish – working in healthcare for society. A noble cause, everyone agrees!

In our feverish and passionate work towards putting out fires so that we can tackle emerging challenges and creating a new, transparent healthcare system, we can’t always slow down. Building a system that allows access, education, and care for all is what we must continue to do. But. And you knew this was coming. We can’t make a hash of our humanity by overlooking the archetypes I listed. These are real patients that we see every day – at clinic, at home, on rounds, in reports. We just have to look.

In The Overlooked Danger of Delirium in Hospitals, Sandra Boodman shares:

Researchers estimate that about 40 percent of delirium cases are preventable.

“The biggest misconceptions are that delirium is inevitable and that it doesn’t matter,” said E. Wesley Ely, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who founded its ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group.

Stunning? It should be. This is just one clear example of being overlooked or forgotten. It’s always easier to put on a label on things difficult to handle, and who can blame anyone? Clinicians pushed to the max with 10-minute patient interactions (if lucky), hospitals forced to become marketing engines just to survive, nurses doing duties beyond what they ever imagined, and a tertiary-care system that is rough to say the least.

Let’s not focus on just one example of forgotten/overlooked patients. Let’s consider all of our pooled skills, experiences, resources, and abilities to focus on what we can do to chip away at this hidden feature of healthcare.

This week on #hcldr, let’s think & talk about the forgotten patient and get your input!

Let’s consider where we are and where we need to be as well as the implications along with the #hcldr community of professionals, patients, clinicians, administrators, lurkers, counselors, social workers, designers, and advocates! Please join us on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 at 8:30pm Eastern (for your local time click here) as we discuss the following topics:

  • T1: What’s your experience with overlooked/forgotten patients? Were you able to change things?
  • T2: How is modern healthcare designed only as a net to cover most people? What can extend the reach?
  • T3: Who has responsibility for patient/caregiver education, access, direction, and followup? How can these roles be shared?
  • T4: In your experience, how do you/can you make the biggest impact on reducing the numbers of forgotten patients?


“Emotional harm from disrespect: the neglected preventable harm” Lauge Sokol-Hessner, Patricia Henry Folcarelli, Kenneth E F Sands, BMJ Journals, 2015.

Accessed August 13, 2019

“The Tragedy of the Commons” Garrett Hardin, Science, Dec 13, 1968.

Accessed August 13, 2019

“The Overlooked Danger of Delirium in Hospitals” Sandra Boodman, Atlantic, June 7, 2015.

Accessed August 12, 2019


Image Credit

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

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