Patient Experience: Waiting for Godot

In the event of a water landing your life-vest contains a location light that will illuminate when we slam into the hard as concrete water from thirty-six thousand feet, making it easier for the Coastguard to locate your body.  There was no warning about carrying C4 or RDX in your undergarments or wearing a pair of clogs constructed from match-heads.  I did not know if that was because airlines thought nobody would ever again attempt such a foolhardy method of bringing down a plane, or if they had simply given up on being able to discover the culprit before it was too late.

It is illegal for you to tamper with or destroy the smoke detector in the plane’s lavatory.

Really? They have to issue that warning because on some flight not only must someone have tried to destroy the smoke detector, but because there was no warning about the illegality of it someone was able to use not knowing as their defense.  This is the same reason there is a warning on your toaster telling you not to make toast while you are taking a bath.

There are on hundred and twenty-six seats on this plane.  Therefore the probability of the one screaming child sitting directly behind me was slim.  I was never very good calculating probabilities.

According to the English, the play, Waiting for Godot, is the most significant work of the 20th century. It is an absurdist play in which two characters wait endlessly for someone named Godot.  Maybe it is like a hundred and twenty-six people waiting for the plane to crash-land in water—I think the term ‘land’ is a bit superfluous. 

I read what Wikipedia contained about the play.  Apparently there are almost as many interpretations of what Samuel Beckett meant by writing it as there are people who read it—everyone has an opinion of everything.  Depending on the person one would think Beckett intended readers to think the play had to do with one of the following; The Cold War, Freud, Jung, Existentialism, Ethics, Christianity, an autobiography, and homoerotica.  I did not know Beckett had such range.

I am always amazed when people interpret what people write, when they try to ascertain the true meaning of what the author, someone with whom they have never spoken, had in mind.  We have built an entire field of study, English Literature, around these empty suppositions.  People with PhDs ask students—students who wonder why they did not study something else—what so-and-so intended when they wrote such-and-such.  Not only do they ask the question, they believe the answer is important.  They will grade the poor student to see if the student was able to spit back the truth as they imparted it.

Here’s a secret about authors and about what they do and why they do it.  They write to tell a story.  That is it.  I write. There is no hidden meaning.  When there are no more words to write, hopefully the story has reached the end.  My son’s teacher asked him why the author of a poem used a certain phrase in a poem.  I told him to tell the teacher the author used it because it rhymed.

If Beckett had wanted people to know what he thought about The Cold War he would have written about it—by the way, for those who thought he was writing about the “Cold War” the phrase barely existed when he wrote Godot.  If he had written an autobiography, he probably would have titled it “Waiting for Godot: an Autobiography.”

Too many of us spend way too much time trying to discover what was really meant by an author or a speaker.  We try to interpret a report.  We read between the lines to find the hidden meaning.  We do that with the patient experience data we purchase.

We have probably learned less from our data than we think, and we spent a lot of money trying to learn more, trying to figure out what else it could be telling us.  Personally, I think all of the things about patient experience that are not being looked at can tell you a lot more than the things that are being studied.

If for example the entire patient experience across the care continuum contained one hundred touchpoints, and hospitals only had data on thirty-two of the touchpoints—HCAHP scores, what could having data on the other seventy-two touchpoints tell us?  What if hospitals knew the experiences of people who were scheduling and appointment, who were being admitted, who wanted a second opinion, who didn’t understand their bill?

Sometimes it is easier to get more data, different data, than it is to squeeze more information you’re your old data.

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