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My Hospital Stay during the Coronavirus Pandemic Time

My Hospital Stay during the Coronavirus Pandemic Time

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I’ve worked hard during the “work remote, shelter at home” period to continue my routines and break the gap between work and non-work activities, in order to keep from being bored and going stir-crazy. Everything was going according to my never-experienced, work-from-home plan.

One night last week, I woke with a queasy feeling in my stomach, the kind I get when a 24-hour bug is approaching. Nothing happened that night, but by 10 a.m. the next morning, I called my internist. I described my stomach pain symptoms and was advised to go to the closest emergency room.

After four hours of testing, I was discharged with an inconclusive diagnosis. By the next morning, the pain was more intense and I returned. Later in the day, I had an emergency appendectomy for a ruptured appendix. By that time, I didn’t care about a pandemic; I just wanted the pain to go away.

Once I recovered from the relatively short procedure, I realized that it would not be a routine in-and-out hospital stay. My abdomen had been exposed to unknown numbers of bacteria and other substances that are supposed to leave the body externally. The treatment protocol was a number of IV and oral antibiotics administered 24 hours a day until the doctors were confident that the infection was under control. I would have to be my own advocate, since no visitors were allowed due to the pandemic.

I was lucky that a colorectal surgeon happened to be on call the day of my surgery and performed my appendectomy. He was great and never failed to visit me at least once a day post-surgery to review my test results and discuss the plan going forward.

All of the hospital staff were garbed in personal protective equipment (PPE) from the time I entered the ER to the time that I left, six days later. I was given a mask when I entered the ER and other than when I was in my room by myself, I had to wear the mask.

The last time I was an in-patient in a hospital was in second grade when I had my tonsils removed. I don’t remember much about that visit other than I couldn’t wait to go home. That was probably the only similarity between then and now.

Today, all interactions with patients are computerized with physician orders going into the computer and actions taken by the staff logged in through a mobile device. Before each shot I received, the nurse scanned my wristband which logged me in as the patient and then the medicine was scanned with the date and time of day.

Despite the automation, the system is not perfect. Before I could be discharged, I had to have a CAT scan to confirm that there were no abscesses in my abdomen. Because I have an allergy to contrast dye, I had to have a special regimen of steroids before the test could proceed.

Two hours before the test, the nurse read the record from the morning dosage and assumed that I had received the drug appropriately. I stated the drug regimen was explained differently to me and that I needed another dose. She was able to confirm that I was correct, but the debate and confirmation with the physician delayed the test by more than two hours.

Now that I’ve been home for a week, the recovery is noticeable but slower than I thought it would be. I have a follow-up telemedicine call scheduled with my surgeon a week after discharge, but most of my dialogue has been with my personal physician. Times may have changed since my first stay 58 years ago, but the automated healthcare patient system seems to be more oriented toward task completion than treating the patient.

I see a lot of room for improvement in patient outcomes and costs if a thoughtful and unified approach could be taken to fine-tune the software recording medical interactions with the patient’s actual situation and a database to indicate the next steps that are most likely to provide the best outcome. More on this topic will follow, after I’ve had a few more weeks to reflect.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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