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The Success of Vulnerable Clinician Storytelling

We’re all vulnerable at different points in our life, and sometimes we are lucky enough to provoke a moment of awesome and inspiration from the depths of our vulnerability to inspire those around and ahead of us.

Flip the Clinic had the gift of capturing such a moment this year when we visited our friends in San Francisco at the Southeast Health Center.

We’ve featured Dr. Keith Seidel’s Apple Store-inspired, Flip the Clinic contributions both in Flip #35 and our recent “Flip the Clinic is You” video. His team of patients and clinicians and staff have gone on to produce a “tactical nurse” approach to the morning check-in meetings, they’ve implemented a happiness voting system with patients when they leave the appointment so the team can, in real-time, know what the patient experience is like, and, they’ve come together as a practice to support Keith during the year he faced in 2015.

This Summer, I traveled to Southeast Health Center to interview Keith and his colleagues in hopes of capturing all of the great action his practice was taking on their path to becoming one of our soon-to-be-first-labeled “Flipped Clinics” in the United States. The truth is, we shifted our shoot schedule from a month earlier after receiving word from Keith that he was at home with his mom, to be with her during her final days.

“I always feel like that everybody needs three things: autonomy, mastery and purpose,” Keith stated early in the interview and quickly spoke to the importance of building trust and relationships with his patients.

“Often we try to maintain a really professional relationship with somebody, and not talk about our individual personal lives. [But] my patients can tell. They sense that something’s wrong with me, that I’m not the same way I was before. And so I’ve found that the best thing to do, especially this past year, was for me to talk about it.”

In June 2015, Keith’s mom was diagnosed with colon cancer after a blood test revealed anemia and other tests were ordered. She passed away later in July.

“At the end of her life, I asked my mother, ‘what would you say to people if you were able to talk to them directly?’ And she looked at me and said, ‘Keith, I would tell people, Get tested!’ So I said, ‘All right, mom, that’s the story I’ll definitely tell people.’”

As he shared the news of his mom’s diagnosis and death with his patients and his staff, Keith soon found out not one other colleague but eight other staff members at Southeast had also lost a loved one to colon cancer. EIGHT.

As a team, they decided to investigate their current testing rates for colon cancer screenings and found testing rates were just 28% among those candidates eligible for colonoscopy screenings. They swiftly made a commitment to share their personal stories of colon cancer with the patients due for screenings with hopes of increasing the test rate.

We could end this story there, its plenty inspiring. I could tell you about the impact that commitment made. This story took a change of pace when Keith shared it with us during the interview — it became a “moment of awesome,” a moment I hope we can create more of throughout the Flip the Clinic community.

Instead of jumping to the next shot on our list, our film directors, Xan Parker and Robin Honan, asked Keith if all 8 staff members were working that day. They were! The DB Productions crew instantly volunteered to donate their overtime to Southeast and they created a video telling the staff stories of every loved one lost to colon cancer. Taking up the inspired charge to get tested, the language translation staff also stayed late and appeared on camera sending out the call to, “Get tested,” in the languages most often requested for translation assistance among their patients.

“I’m going to tell my patients that my mother didn’t get the opportunity to meet her grandson, born 10 days after she passed. Had she been tested at an earlier stage we could have done something about it,” Keith reflected. “I would like every patient to know is it’s easy to get tested. It’s simple.”

By sharing their personal stories as medical staff, colon cancer screenings increased from 28% to 62.9% at Southeast Medical Center by November 2015. This PSA is now playing in the entry lobby at Southeast and we look forward to the day the testing percentage rate closes in on 100% in the months ahead.

Get Tested! Colon cancer is completely preventable. A very simple test will tell you immediately if something is concerning and often early warning signs can be treated right away during the same test. Screening by a colonoscopy is recommended at age 50. For more information on Colorectal Screenings and the prevention of Colon Cancer, please visit the National Cancer Institute.

This post originally appeared online at Flip the Clinic.

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