June 6, 2016

In Memory of Robert S. Gold

By
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are the transcribed remarks by Mark Laudenberger during the May 24 edition of Talk Ten Tuesdays broadcast that honored the late Robert S. Gold, MD. 

Good morning, everyone – it is an extreme honor to be able to speak today on the life of Dr. Robert Gold. His recent loss has touched so many people across the country, and on behalf of his many friends at Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, his DCBA work family, and all of those who were lucky enough to have known him.  

Often we talk about those in professions who have made important contributions, but with Dr. Gold we are talking about someone who actually had the vision to initiate a brand of consulting that allowed the clinical documentation improvement (CDI) industry to take shape. Dr. Gold brought incredible passion and energy to everything he was involved with in his life.  

My connection with Dr. Gold started on an airplane - when I was reading one of his articles. He brought excitement and a “fun-to-read” energy to his writing. With apologies to our audience today, he took some of the driest material on earth - coding and documentation rules - and found a way to put zest into its content. If you fell asleep reading one of his articles, it probably meant you were just really tired. He was truly a great writer. 

After reading that article, I got in touch with him, and we signed a contract with DCBA. We were still in the early stages of CDI, and he helped educate our physicians, administration, as well as our CDI and coding professionals on how to improve the quality of our documentation.    

When he was at Middlesex, and about to round with my CDI professionals, they knew they had to be prepared for a non-stop, fast-paced, rapid-fire day. My entire staff learned from him and adored him. 

I credit Dr. Gold and Randall Guyton at DCBA for helping give our program the boost it needed – and allowing it to grow steadily over the years.

At the national level, he could always see the problems that the CDI industry was facing. We have all watched him leading a charge – actually, multiple charges at once – trying to fix whatever wasn’t right in the documentation and coding of medical care. He simply never stopped working.     

Ironically, I read one of his articles the day before he passed away, on the national crisis being caused by the misuse of the copy-and-paste function by providers in the electronic health record, making for just another example of his being on the mark and pushing for change.

His impact on the CDI industry will long be remembered, and perhaps will inspire others to be outspoken in making meaningful change occur. His loss at the national level is a great one.

Our personal connection started with the game he loved – baseball. I told him that I was from the Philadelphia area and a lifelong Phillies fan. That was followed by a big smile. He told me he was born in Philadelphia and grew up a Phillies fan, but became a Braves fan after moving to Atlanta. 

From that moment forward, the 18 annual regular-season games between the rival Phillies and Braves suddenly took on new meaning and importance – with emails, phone calls, and text messages following most games during the season.  

Fittingly, we also got together to attend what would become a historic Phillies-Braves game in Atlanta on Sept. 1, 2014: a combined no-hitter thrown by four Phillies pitchers, something that had never happened before or since in the 134-year history of the franchise. We both knew, as baseball fans, that we had just witnessed baseball magic.  

Ironically, on his last day with us, and also on the day of his funeral services, his Braves won both games for him – and both games just happened to be against the Phillies. 

He was a very kind and caring person, always smiling, always thinking, and always trying to find humor in a stressful world. There are not enough words to describe all of the positive attributes that he brought to the world each day. He was loved by so many people. We will miss our very dear friend – but know that his spirit will always be within each of us. 

Thank you for allowing me to honor Dr. Gold and to share my story with your national audience today.
Mark E. Laudenberger, MS, RHIA

Mark Laudenberger is the director of health information management (HIM) at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn.

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