Friday, November 12, 2010

The empowered patient

On the subject of patient empowerment..

This is interview with Elizabeth Cohen talking about her new book, The Empowered Patient. Elizabeth is the senior medical consultant for CNN and had a bad experience in the hospital with her daughter. I have not read the book but I am glad this subject is getting some attention.

I think the days of the doctor is all knowing and you can't bother the doctor and if you think the doctor is wrong then you are wrong is over. Patients are more savvy now and often have an idea what is wrong with them before seeking care. Unfortunately people don't always read reliable information on the internet..

I have a personal story where my own life was saved by me speaking up and realizing something was wrong.

The bottom line here is if something doesn't seem right to you then it might not be- SPEAK UP!! Health care providers are not perfect, we don't know everything and if you meet a health care provider that thinks they know everything then see someone else. When I was a student I met a pediatrician who told me that you should never let the patient see you look something up. I wholeheartedly disagree with this and since most of us carry some sort of electronic device in our pockets while at work I imagine I'm not the only one who disagrees with this.

Here is the flip side though. Today's health care climate is all about patient satisfaction. We want to provide you with good care so you will choose to come back to our hospital. But there has to be a line somewhere. If you come into the ED and demand a million dollar workup are are told you don't need it then you should listen to the reasons why. Most health care procedures have some risk to them and if you are told that you don't need a particular test then ask why. If you don't like the answer then feel free to ask for a second opinion. Don't just demand that the providers order tests, have a discussion. Explain to them why you think you need the test you are requesting. It's much easier to have a calm discussion with a provider about the pros and cons of a certain treatment than to start screaming that you're going to sue the provider if they don't order a CT scan.

Bottom line- health care should be a partnership between you and your provider. Neither side is all knowing and all powerful. Make decisions with your provider. You will get better care and everyone will be happier.
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