Ernest Quintana, 78, died a day after the news that his lungs were failing.
"My dad's reaction was, well I guess I'm going to go quickly then and put his head down-- that was it," said daughter Catherine Quintana.
A prognosis that would have been difficult to accept under any circumstance, became even more painful for the Quintana family of Fremont when the doctor used a robot to deliver the bad news.
Ernest Quintana was told by a doctor via video that he was going to die. Now his family wants Kaiser Permanente to change its policies and allow patients to choose between being treated in person or via video. @abc7newsbayarea pic.twitter.com/BfHIVk30xE— Luz Peña (@LuzPenaABC7) March 12, 2019
"The Doctors said that there were no lungs left and he needed comfort care. That would entail a morphine drip until he died," explained Quintana.
Annalisa Quintana the patient's 33-year-old granddaughter was the only family member in the hospital room. When she saw a robot roll in with a doctor on the other side she pulled out her phone and recorded the interaction. Annalisa's intention was to relate the information to the rest of the family.
"He couldn't understand the man. He couldn't hear them. The robot couldn't come all the way in the room. It could only come so far. Because it's a big machine. It couldn't come close enough. So there was no bedside manner, there was no compassion. He was reading a script," said Quintana.
Kaiser Permanente defends its use of technology to treat patients and confirmed that as part of its policy a nurse or a doctor is always in the room. In a statement to ABC7 News, Kaiser said in part, "The evening video conversation was a follow-up to earlier in-person physician visits and was not used in the delivery of the initial diagnosis" and added "We regret that our use of a video call did not meet the Quintana family's expectations of a compassionate experience."
In the video recorded by Ernest Quintana's granddaughter, you can see a Kaiser employee in the background but the actual doctor via video.
"I think in regular care, somebody coming in for tonsils to be taken out or simple test results is fine. But not for people that are dying. People that are at their last end of life, it's not okay," said Quintana.
The Quintana's hope this experience will change Kaisers policies and allow for patients to choose to be treated by a doctor in person or via video.
Statement from Michelle Gaskill-Hames, RN, Senior Vice President and Area Manager, Kaiser Permanente Greater Southern Alameda County
We are deeply sorry for falling short of the Quintana family's expectations. We offer our sincere condolences for the loss of their beloved family member and friend. We also take their concerns very seriously and have reached out to the Quintana family to address them.
Our patients are our top priority at Kaiser Permanente, which is why the story being reported over the past 24 hours about a "robot diagnosis" is heartbreaking and shocking.
Unfortunately, very little of what's being reported is accurate.
It is important to understand that we do not have robots that have medical discussions with patients or deliver terminal diagnoses. The evening video conversation was a follow-up to earlier in-person physician visits and was not used in the delivery of the initial diagnosis.
That said, we will use this as an opportunity to review how to improve patient experiences with video capabilities.
We discussed the diagnosis and prognosis of the case in person with the Quintana family and their loved one since he entered our hospital and our physicians and nurses were in regular, in-person communication with the patient and family about his condition. In order to provide an urgent evening consultation with a specialist physician, a live conversation was conducted using a video connection. A nurse was in the room to accompany the video conversation, as is our standard practice. We regret that our use of a video call did not meet the Quintana family's expectations of a compassionate experience.
When we provide these video conversations, they are always with a nurse or other physician in the room with the patient and family. Use of secure video conversations allows a small hospital to make additional specialists available 24/7 for patient consultation, enhancing the care provided and bringing additional consultative expertise to the bedside.
At Kaiser Permanente, our goal will always be to improve care and service. And, like every health care provider, we are continuously learning how best to integrate technology into patient interactions - and we will continue to do so for the benefit of our patients.