Matthew Sembrat

Matthew Sembrat: A Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare

We hear a patient’s perspective on healthcare from Matthew Sembrat on this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare podcast with Rob Oliver. Matt is a friend of the show from the Pittsburgh area but joined in the patient’s perspective interview marathon from his family’s home up in Maine. This is interview 42 in the interview marathon.

Here are 3 things that stood out as Matt Sembrat gave us a patient’s perspective on healthcare:

  • Healthcare Heroes represent dedication, care, and selflessness in a way that they support and care for their patients.
  • Quality healthcare revolves around affordability, accessibility, inclusivity, and collaboration among healthcare providers.
  • The patient experience would be improved if there were better communication and collaboration among healthcare providers.

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Here is the text of the interview as Matthew Sembrat presented A Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare.

Introduction to Matthew Sembrat

Rob Oliver: Welcome to the podcast, and Matt, I love you and everything, but you’re not getting hugs like Jesse and Maranda got, okay?

Matthew Sembrat: How are you, Rob?

Rob Oliver: I am well, thanks. How are you?

Matthew Sembrat: Oh, it’s great seeing you. I’m doing good. Yeah, I’m doing just fine.

Rob Oliver: Good. And just for my listeners who are on audio only, your name is?

Matthew Sembrat: Matt Sembrat.

Rob Oliver: Okay. And Matt, where are you joining us from?

Matthew Sembrat: I’m actually joining you from Bangor, Maine in my nephew’s bedroom.

Rob Oliver: Fantastic.

Matthew Sembrat: It’s the quietest place in the house. You can see that he’s got clouds on the ceiling.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, it’s awesome work.

Matthew Sembrat: I was up visiting my sister. My mom came up for Mother’s Day. We surprised her. My brother came up with me, and so all three siblings are here spending Mother’s Day with my sister and my mom.

Rob Oliver: What a wonderful thing to do. I’m sure both of them appreciate it thoroughly.

Matthew Sembrat: They do. Yeah, they do.

Rob Oliver: So good stuff. So Matt, let’s just jump right into this. The easy question for you is, can you tell me about yourself and your experiences in healthcare?

Matthew Sembrat: Okay. So, you know, I come to the healthcare arena from a couple of different avenues. I’m in IT, and I’ve been an IT guy for as long as I can remember, and I have a lot of clients in all aspects of the medical community. So I come at it from, you know, connecting an office to the network or to the internet, to making sure they’re secure, to making sure their medical records are secure, to make sure that they can conduct their business in a manner that’s compliant with all the rules and regulations they are responsible for. So I’m more on the IT and the infrastructure side from a profession, and I do all kinds of facilities from dental offices to, you know, doc in the boxes, to hospitals, to medical record keeping companies, to everything in between in terms of it being IT related. At one point, I did a ton of dental work for some reason, just to find myself working with periodontists and dentists and enjoyed that work. So I come at it from a professional perspective, from that side of the equation, and from a personal perspective, you know, I receive healthcare like everybody, I get sick like everybody. Yeah, so I’ve, you know, I’ve been treated for ADHD, I’ve had surgery for diverticulitis, I’ve had, you know, other various diagnostic procedures for a heart ailment that I’ve had. So I have, you know, I have some experience with being a patient and then having two sons who have had a myriad of issues, you know, starting with croup through asthma and allergies and everything else. So you know, in my family is much the same way, you know, I’ve got brothers and sisters that have kids in the SME elements. And they have their own experiences in the healthcare systems, both locally in Pennsylvania and where we live. But in this case, you know, in Bangor, Maine, or in Tennessee, or in Dallas, Texas, my brother lives.

Rob Oliver: Sure. You’ve, you’ve had a long and varied journey, that maybe long… you’re not old enough to have had a long journey, but we’ll just say…

Matthew Sembrat: Thank you. I appreciate that comment. But I’m getting there.

Who are the healthcare heroes?

Rob Oliver: You’ve had an extensive journey through the healthcare community. Along the way, have you met any healthcare heroes?

Matthew Sembrat: You know, I have and I actually took some note note notes on this as well in preparation for for us talking. And so yeah, I do have some some healthcare heroes. And they are for my cousin, Michael, for example, who is a ICU nurse at St. Clair Hospital Hospital, my PCP, Dr. Amy Marmal, who has been, unfortunately, he’s retired now, the staff at United Cerebral Palsy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the people that I worked with there who did amazing, amazing work and sometimes thankless hard work for years. And of course, a pharmacy pharmacist that’s close to me that early on when I had children that were, you know, sick, helped me out a ton just by being available and being around for those middle of the night asthma runs or, or whatever else it was, but you know, my cousin, for example, is an ICU nurse and he is he is so dedicated to his patients and so dedicated to the care and continuing education. It’s actually amazing to watch him work. And I’ve had, I’ve gone to other doctors who have asked unsolicited, you know, are you relatives of Michael Sembrad, and of course I am, he’s my cousin, and then I get to hear how, you know, he touched their lives, just by the quality of nurse that he is and how much he cares about his patient. I had a woman in my running group come up to me and said, you know, my mother just passed, and I believe your cousin was the nurse that was with her for the week before she passed and she said, you know, he was just amazing and was a comfort to the family for the work that he provided. So those kinds of people and my own PCP who took a very active role in my care, you know, she was very engaged with the diagnostic process. She was very engaged with listening to what was going on with me and figuring out some of the more complex issues like when I ended up with an enlarged heart. And it wasn’t, I never felt at any point in time that she was just trying to get me through that appointment to get me out the door to get the next person in. She clearly took a vested interest in my health care and subsequently I stuck with her until she retired. She was amazing. So I would consider those two heroes for sure. And then my pharmacist, you know, he would come to my house all hours of the night. He would go open the pharmacy for me to get a medication I needed for my wife or one of my kids early on, you know, when his pharmacy was just starting up. And even after he got big, he never, you know, he never lost that touch with any of us. And even today I can still call him and he’s got, you know, 50 or 60 employees, but he’ll still make time to swing by the house and drop something off. And it’s those kinds of people, I think when you’re in crisis mode, that they stand out because they’re willing to get in the trench with you and they’re willing to make sure that you’re pointed in the right direction or getting the care that you need before they, you know, they call it a night, so to speak. So those are my health, and of course, literally all the people that I worked with at UCP, they were all amazing folks from Al to yourself, to Melva, to all those hearts that touched me during my tenure there. You know, they did some pretty amazing selfless work and they for sure are my mind healthcare heroes.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, and I think that what you’ve laid out is a really great kind of framework for not just who are the healthcare heroes, but what makes them healthcare heroes. And that’s impressive.

Defining quality healthcare

Rob Oliver: What does quality healthcare mean to you?

Matthew Sembrat: So you know, I thought a lot about that question too, and I kind of gone in a variety of directions with my answers initially, because it seemed to be an ever evolving answer. Your question, as I was thinking about this interview as we were leading up to it. And I was thinking about, you know, what does quality healthcare mean to me and how do I overlay the current offerings within healthcare on top of that? And what settles to the bottom, right? What does it actually mean? And I kind of decided that I wanted to describe it in a perfect world, what it would be. So in my perfect world. So healthcare to me should be affordable and accessible and inclusive, high quality, collaborative, meaningful, trustworthy, proactive, and available to everybody in the community that it services. So everybody in its sphere of influence could have equal access to all aspects of that healthcare. So quality healthcare to me means quality of results too. So how do we treat the tough cases? How do we treat the tough folks? How do we treat the people that may be afflicted for the rest of their life and care for them until their time runs out? And also, part of that would be wishing boundaries didn’t exist between the providers. So a person can go to any doctor in any hospital and any specialist and receive the same type of care and quality of care, cost of care that they would receive from within their own little boundaries of networks. I had a situation just recently where I referred somebody to a doctor who was amazing. I mean, she’s just, she’s wonderful. And they ended up not being able to participate with that doctor because it was quote unquote out of their network sphere and it would have cost something like $250 per visit just for them to see them independent of their copay. So it became financially impossible for that person to get access to somebody that I felt pretty confident, I’m not a doctor, but it felt pretty confident would be the right fit for that type of patient. In my perfect healthcare world, whatever the backend mechanism that would be needed to allow that to happen would be there and you wouldn’t penalize a person for wanting to seek out the best person and best set of solutions that they could for what they’re dealing with.

Rob Oliver: A well thought out answer, so thanks for that.

Matthew Sembrat: And the other lady that was on before me, she had made a point that I’m going to reiterate, but having all the doctors that would be in your care automatically getting access and notified of tests and treatments and drug prescriptions and all that stuff. I see a cardiologist and they’re in their wall and they do their blood work and that blood work, unless I specify should go to my PCP isn’t sent there. And then maybe a series of tests that should have been run as part of that overall blood work wasn’t run because it wasn’t in the cardiologist’s scope of work. So just, and then I got to go get blood again and anybody that knows me knows that I’m scared of death and needles. So the less needle action I can receive, the better you add that onto the list. I think that would be an unbelievable, an unbelievable addition to my healthcare vision.

Rob Oliver: It’s funny. I learned a statistic today that I was not aware of. I had a gentleman named Adam Hommey on and he had the technical name for it, but he was sharing that he is petrified of needles. And…

Matthew Sembrat: Adam, I’m with you.

Rob Oliver: So here’s my, here’s my question for you. Can you want to take a guess at how many people in the United States share that same fear? I don’t, but hopefully be all of them. So there are 50 million people who who would classify themselves as having at least as more than a mild fear of needles, which I think you’re correct in that everybody has a fear of need. It’s rare that someone’s like, Oh, please stick me. Right.

Matthew Sembrat: No, really. Next. I’ll take the largest one you have.

Rob Oliver: Yes. So. Good. I will apologize on this. I don’t think I asked you this question, but I will.

Matthew Sembrat: Sure. Go ahead.

How can your medical providers better understand you?

Rob Oliver: What do you wish your medical providers understood about you?

Matthew Sembrat: No, no, you haven’t. They haven’t. And I haven’t, I have an answer for that too. So so I think it’s, it’s more, and it’s not, it’s not what they’re understanding currently. It’s how I wish they would get to understand me better and, you know, more proactive collaboration amongst my team or any team provided with my care that they could look at my past, current health status treatments, holistically communicate with each other and proactively guide me through this journey. Having someone look at my previous issues and say, okay, you have X, your blood type is Y, your genetic makeup is Z, your family predisposition is R, you know, and whatever other markers that they’re paying attention to, you should be eating this. You should be doing this type of exercise. You should be looking out for this and then schedule my appointments for me to follow. So build that plan so I can follow it out. And pieces of this exist today for sure, but it’s more on me to draw it out of them than it is for them to say, hey, we’ve studied this a little bit, spent a little bit of time. And you know, we, we, we know the pieces of the quilt that are stitched together now and here’s what we feel, you know, your plan should be and your past should, should be moving forward. So, you know, I think I wish my providers had a better understanding of what the other providers I’m seeing knew. Does that make sense? They’re like, yeah, my PCP does a pretty good job of collecting this stuff, but she has to pull it in. It’s not proactively given to her, you know, and my, the guy that did my diverticulitis surgery has to go and extract the stuff from the guy that did the colonoscopies, you know? So it’s like, I wish it was more seamless and they knew more about me and can say to you, hey, Matt, you know, we, we get this, we understand from a history perspective and a genetics perspective, what you’re predisposed to. We understand what your health, you know, track used to look like and here’s what we’re doing.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. So Matt, I was actually just complaining to one of them, or at least mentioning to one of my other folks that I am, that for me, I say, does that make sense? Or I say that makes a lot of sense, a lot more than I would really like to. So you’re asking me, does that make sense? And I’m like, he’s trying to bait me into say, oh, that makes a lot of sense because that’s apparently been my go-to catchphrase today.

Matthew Sembrat: Yeah.

A suggestion to improve healthcare quality

Rob Oliver: So yeah, so that’s fantastic. Last question for you, Matt, is what is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Matthew Sembrat: So that was a tough one to answer as well, because you look at the categorizing just one thing, right? And all of a sudden your mind blows up with about 50 things that you would love to see them do, but I’m going to take a stab at it with the one. I think if I have to pick one attribute, it would be time, you know, take more time to look at a patient as a loved one or family, pour into them the same level of compassion, concern, and desire to heal than you would, that you would for your own family members. Take more time to study me as a patient, get to know me, become my advocate, take time with the health insurance companies on a patient’s behalf to advocate for appropriate testing and diagnostic procedures that may not be initially covered that the patient ends up having to advocate for themselves for. And I get doctors’ time is valuable, and they will go so far in terms of advocating for you, but then it’s up to you as the patient to take it further. Focus on the success of your practice being a measurement of the overall health of the collective of people that you deal with and how often you have been able to bring them to healthy outcomes than maybe how the practice is profitable financially, for example. So I like the idea of time. I like the idea of, you know, taking more of a vested interest in the patient’s outcome soup to nuts. And that requires that aspect of time to be more available for these people to take with us, you know, all of us as individual patients to learn us.

Rob Oliver: Sure. So let me just say, Matt, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate you sharing. And I respect your perspective on healthcare.

Matthew Sembrat: Thank you.

Rob Oliver: Oh, you bet.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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