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A Note from Melissa Marks Sparrow, MD, GBMC Chief of Staff

March 2, 2020
I recently had the experience of visiting my Mom in a hospital in New Jersey. My parents live in a little town where I also grew up. The original community hospital there, which had been situated square in the township’s center, was razed in 2012, and a new one, which had been under construction for about six years, had opened just outside of town.

This was the first time I had seen this hospital from its inside. It was gorgeous. Perfectly new, sparkling clean, with vast windows looking out over a forest, grand art on the walls, diffuse and dappled light in the hallways. My Dad, impressed with the new hospital, of course, asked my opinion, his doctor daughter, of whom he is puffed-up with pride. I answered it was beautiful, but that did not tell me anything about the work flow or the quality of care. I had much more to learn before I could give useful commentary.

Melissa Marks Sparrow, MD, GBMC Chief of Staff
Melissa Marks Sparrow, MD, GBMC Chief of Staff
We found my Mom on the third floor, in a lovely, open room – yes this does matter – with a comfortable place for my Dad and me to sit, a large window looking out over the same forest, a spacious bathroom. After greeting my Mom, I sat down on the robin’s egg blue arm chair and asked her about the results of her tests – she had had labs done in the ED of course, and a carotid doppler. She had presented with a fainting spell. She looked at me curiously and said, "I have no idea of the results." I then asked her if anyone had given her a Bedside Chart. She’d never heard of such a thing. There was a huge screen on the wall, so I grabbed her remote control to see what I could find. As far as hospital information available via her flat screen, basically I could get into the hospital’s website – and nothing more.

My Mom told me of numerous people who had visited her, the dietician who seemed to know nothing of her history of esophageal atresia or diverticulitis, the two doctors who came in one after the other and didn't seem to know the one who had come before, the nurse who gave my Mom a medicine my Mom had never heard of and when asked what it was for, could not answer.

I asked, "Mom, did a group of people ever come in, a team?"

She looked at me like I had two heads. "What do you mean? Like a football team?"

"No, like a doctor and a care manager and a nurse; people working together and talking about what you have and what you need, you know, talking as a group."

She looked anxious and as if I was speaking a foreign language.

Who was in charge of her care, we mutually wondered?

I tried to keep my mouth shut but was distressed; the aesthetics were great, but this was not the kind of care my Mom would have gotten at GBMC.

I returned to Baltimore with a new sense of appreciation, the kind you experience when something you have perhaps taken for granted is suddenly palpably present. Important aspects of care at GBMC stood out to me after that hospital visit. One is the movement toward transparency of medical information.

This is a transition happening nationwide, where patients are asking for and rightfully gaining, more and more of their personal medical information in real time. While we do not yet know what the far-reaching impact of these changes will be, studies from other organizations reveal a positive impact: an increased trust between caregivers and patients, greater understanding of their medical care and even better compliance upon discharge secondary to that better understanding.

Another aspect of patient care at GBMC we are to be proud of is multi-disciplinary patient-centered rounds. Our healthcare system clearly recognizes patient care is a team sport. We need varieties of expertise; we must bring our different types of knowledge to the same page in such a way that patients and their families understand. We want our patients to feel they rest in a safety net built of connected threads. How better to believe those threads are intertwined than to see them in action together, exchanging ideas and listening to one another, as well as listening to the patient and family member all in one tapestry of care?

GBMC is a healthcare system with an unambiguous identity, one that has the agility of independence because of its history of expert financial stewardship and because of the support of individuals like yourselves. Your leadership and compassion to this organization, as well as your philanthropic support, is something to celebrate.

I am proud to be associated with GBMC, and of the work we accomplish together and will continue to in the future.
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