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Rikki Quintana: A Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare

The interview marathon continues as Rikki Quintana gave us a patient’s perspective on healthcare on this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare podcast with Rob Oliver. This is interview 37 in this series. Only 100 more to go! Rikki is from New Mexico. She shared some very personal insights and there’s a lot to learn here.

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

  • Insurance significantly controls the healthcare people receive in the United States, access to care often depends on presenting an insurance card.
  • Quality healthcare should consider the entire person, including their physical and mental health and life circumstances, rather than just focusing on specific medical issues.

  • Medical professionals need to acknowledge the vulnerability of patients during healthcare encounters, maybe starting by acknowledging their own struggles as a patient.

Here is the text of a patient’s perspective on healthcare from Rikki Quintana

Introduction to Rikki Quintana

Rob Oliver: Welcome to the podcast. What is your name, my friend?

Rikki Quintana: I’m Rikki Quintana.

Rob Oliver: Excellent. And Rikki, where are you joining us from?

Rikki Quintana: I’m joining from Albuquerque, New York, Mexico.

How would you describe your patient experience?

Rob Oliver: All right. And let’s jump right into this. And Rikki, tell me a little bit, or can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience in health care?

Rikki Quintana: Well, I’ve been fortunate to personally be pretty healthy most of my life, and I’ve also been privileged to have pretty decent insurance most of my life, which has made my entry into the health care system in the US a whole lot easier than many people in the US. But I have had a couple of family members who have had major health care problems. My sister, who ultimately committed suicide about 15 years ago, and more recently, my husband, who has had a myriad of different healthcare problems that we’ve had to navigate through. So while I personally have had spent most of my time just doing regular checkups and an occasional urgent care visit, I’ve seen two other family members really struggle with navigating the system as a whole.

Rob Oliver: Interesting that one of the first things that you talk about is insurance when it comes to health care. What are your thoughts about the impact that insurance has on the care that people receive? If you don’t mind.

Rikki Quintana: I think it controls the care that people receive. You can’t even get in the door most of the time if you can’t present your insurance card or you wait 15 hours in a waiting room. In our case, we have one Medicaid public supported hospital in the city. So all the uninsured go to that hospital and the waiting times are unbelievable.

Have you encountered any healthcare heroes?

Rob Oliver: Yeah. It’s sad that this is what happens along your healthcare journey. Have you encountered any healthcare heroes?

Rikki Quintana: Well, actually, two different situations came to mind. One was many years ago when my now grown up daughter was an infant. She was under a year old and she had pneumonia and needed a prescription from our pediatrician. My husband was out of the town. She needed to see the doctor, but I had to be at a presentation. I was the speaker at a presentation where people had paid to attend. There was no backup for that event, and her office didn’t open until after I was scheduled to start presenting. And she met me in her parking lot at 730 in the morning so that she could examine my daughter, write a prescription, and I could hand off the prescription and my daughter to our regular babysitter.

Rob Oliver: Wow. To me, that’s personalized. That is I mean, it’s literally meet you where you are type care.

Rikki Quintana: I still remember it and treasure that experience. The other experience was more recent when my husband started losing his sight in one eye, and the local specialists were not sure of the diagnosis and they had two potential diagnoses and treatment. For one, if it was the wrong diagnosis, would make the problem worse rather than better. And we went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York, which we were fortunately able to do because we have a health care plan that is nationwide, and we didn’t have to go out of network to do it. But that experience of being a patient at the Mayo Clinic was just so astonishing. We had an appointment. They checked us in on time. We saw the first appointment on time. We talked to them right there. They scheduled about six other events, including an MRI and several other diagnostic tests and appointments with other specialists over a 48 hours period. And in multiple occasions, when we were seeing a new specialist, they would pick up the phone and call somebody else in the set and say, I’m looking at these test results. I’m reading this this way. What do you think? And it was just so astonishing that the whole team was working together simultaneously, and it ended up saving my husband’s eyesight because they were able to work quickly and together.

Rob Oliver: Unbelievable. You’re seeing that play out. It’s a real thing for you. And that connection that you’re having where they’re picking up and they’re making the referrals, they’re making the phone calls within the circle to complete it instead of it being it’s not my responsibility, it’s not my thing.

Rikki Quintana: Right.

How do you define quality healthcare?

Rob Oliver: Unbelievable. What does quality health care mean to you?

Rikki Quintana: I would say overall, it’s healthcare that takes into account the entire person, not just the finger that’s hurting today, not just the diagnosis you’ve been given, but the entire person, which includes their entire mental and physical health and their life circumstances.

Rob Oliver: Can you tell me more about that? Because I think it’s a powerful statement that you’ve said that what you’re talking about is holistic. Right. It’s the whole individual. Can you share a little bit more about your thoughts on there or expand on those, please?

Rikki Quintana: Well, probably my sister’s case is a great illustration. As I said, she had mental health issues. She was diagnosed as a schizophrenic in her late teens or early 20s. She also had multiple physical healthcare maladies. And no one in the health care system ever approached her problems from a whole person perspective. So the physical maladies, they would medicate for the physical maladies, and that would have impacts on her mental health condition. If they would medicate for the mental health issues, then it would have side effects that would cause major physical maladies. And to this day, I believe that if she had had a case manager who was looking at her entire health care situation, as well as the fact that she couldn’t hold a job, she was having to manage on Medicaid support that she wouldn’t have committed suicide. But it was a constant back and forth swing between the physical and the mental. And nobody ever looked at the whole picture.

Rob Oliver: It’s a sad indictment. And I had a guest on who was talking about just that that people were being viewed as an assemblage of parts and not as a whole and nobody takes the ownership to kind of bring all of it together.

What do you wish your medical providers knew about you?

Rob Oliver: What is it that you wish Your medical providers understood about you?

Rikki Quintana: It’s related that I’m a whole person and that they need to relate to me that way. They can’t even get an accurate intake of data if they don’t first relate to me as a whole person. I don’t know anyone who loves going to a health care provider. Everyone is vulnerable in some way when they walk in the door, either they’re sick, they’re feeling terrible, even if it’s just a check up. You’re worried about what might be found, what the situation is. They give you a questionnaire to fill out with 50 questions and I always sort of laugh when they get to questions like, do you feel safe in your home? Well, if all I’ve got is a piece of paper with somebody I don’t know and who’s made no effort to connect with me as a person, I’m not going to be honest in that context.

Rob Oliver: And sometimes those questions are being asked in the presence of the person that you might not feel safe with.

Rikki Quintana: Right. But taking the extra time to connect with the patient in a meaningful way, not in a diagnostic way, but from a whole person perspective.

What is one strategy for improving the quality of healthcare patients receive?

Rob Oliver: Yeah. So true. So last question for you. What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Rikki Quintana: I think it would be really useful if they could start every encounter with something that acknowledges the sense of vulnerability of the patient. It may be as simple as saying something like, I know it’s terrible when you have to go to the doctor. I hate going for my checkup too. How are you feeling about that today? Something really simple that acknowledges that the patient in front of you probably doesn’t want to be there.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, so true what you’re saying it’s rare that anybody wants to go to the doctor and you’re talking about it being something that has been to acknowledge that is phenomenal. Listen, Rikki, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate you being here. I appreciate you sharing and I respect you and your perspective on healthcare.

Rikki Quintana: Well, thank you and keep going. I’m cheering for you to beat that record.

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. I appreciate it. See you later.

Rikki Quintana: Bye.

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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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