Osbourne Bodden lives in the Cayman Islands. For most of his career, he worked in the financial services industry, including two of the top four U.S. accounting firms. He had recently retired and was now running a small business that he had inherited from his mother. The night before I opened the fourth annual Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference, I was invited to a small dinner with a group of businesspeople to discuss patient experience. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mr. Bodden and his wife. He shared with me the story of his mother who had recently passed away. He described her as a “tough old bird,” someone who had opinions and “took care of business.” He explained how she had raised her child and suffered through hardships. She started and managed a successful small business in 1955, becoming one of the first female business owners in the Cayman Islands, and she had lived to the grand age of 86. He went on to tell me about her healthcare experience. He had been very close to his mother and was responsible for taking care of her. Together, they had discussed her frail health, as well as her wishes and expectations. When she became ill, she feared the diagnosis of cancer and expressed this to her son. He had taken her to see a physician, and he asked the physician to broach the topic gingerly so that his mother could adapt and “warm up to the idea.” Unfortunately, the physician did not listen and blurted out to his mother, “You have cancer, and we have to start treatment immediately.”1
Bodden describes the interaction: “My mother just shut down. She did not want to hear it, and left the hospital and never came back.” His mother went to Cuba for care. She felt that she was treated more like a person by her Cuban doctors than the ones she had seen in the United States. She continued her care at Baptist Hospital in Miami, and then came back to the Islands, where she spent her final days.
Mr. Bodden is not just any small businessman in the Cayman Islands; he is also the Honorable Minister Bodden, the Minister of Health, Sports, Youth, and Culture—a leader in a position to change things! As he continued to describe to me at dinner: “We lose sight—in healthcare—that we are dealing with people and families, that we are required to treat the soul as much as we have to treat the disease.” This story is unique because it was relayed to me during a random dinner conversation in a foreign country and because the first doctor he described worked for us in our Weston, Florida, facility, but the theme is common, and it plays out every day in healthcare across the globe.
There’s an important, significant disconnect between how we as providers think we communicate ...