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Book Review: The Empowered Patient: How to Get the Best Medical Care Every Time

the-empowered-patient-cover-400-x-600-pix-at-300-resThe Empowered Patient: How to Get the Right Diagnosis, Buy the Cheapest Drugs, Beat Your Insurance Company, and Get the Best Medical Care Every Time

by Elizabeth Cohen

Review by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

For many, today’s healthcare system is overwhelming and confusing. Gone are the days of the paternal family doctor who managed your overall medical care. Today, you must step up and take responsibility for managing your own health care.

This Review: Important Material all Patients Should Consider

‘The Empowered Patient’, written by a CNN Senior medical Correspondent, is a short, easily read book. Chapters are organized in categories with common problems and practical solutions.

This review discusses important material for all patients to consider. If you read the softcover book, I recommend having a highlight marker and some post-it tabs handy for marking particular passages of personal interest for follow-up and future reference.

Trust No One Completely

When it comes to medicine, trust no one completely. Each year, 99,000 patients die from infections they acquire in hospitals, and another 98,000 die from medical mistakes in hospitals.

And when you see your doctor, the diagnosis will be wrong one out of four times. When you have a lump and the lab does a biopsy, one out of ten times the pathologist will make the wrong call. And 7% of the time doctors fail to inform patients if they have had an abnormal test result.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Doctors are human and play favorites—women, blacks and the obese aren’t treated as well as white males. Doctors also are highly influenced by the pharmaceutical reps who visit them often, bring them and their office staff lunch, etc.

At times, we all need to be “bad patients. Not Mr. Nice Guy or Gal unwilling to rock the boat or be a “nuisance”. The “difficult” patient often gets the best results.

Ask questions. Don’t worry if your doctor doesn’t like you. You are in a business relationship with your doctor like dealing with an auto mechanic or a service contract. You should respect your doctor but not give him complete trust.


Chapter 2

Find Dr. Right! Fire Dr. Wrong! Finding a doctor is like dating. Imagine that you are marrying the doctor and his office staff (in a sense you are). Are you comfortable with him and he with you? Check out your doctor on Google.

Average times, “18” and “23”. 18 minutes is the average time a doctor will meet with you. 23 seconds is the average amount of time you can talk to a doctor before he interrupts you. Doctors are under a great deal of pressure to treat as many patients as possible in order to survive in the medical profession.

As a patient you must prepare for your doctor visits. Imagine that a doctor’s visit was costing you $1,000. Wouldn’t you prepare well, have all your paperwork together, etc?

From Chapter 1: How to be a 'Bad Patient'

From Chapter 1: How to be a ‘Bad Patient’

“What else could it be?” These are the magic words that can save you a lot of medical grief. Doctors often lock into one diagnosis. “What else could it be?” helps the doctor (and you) explore all the options of what may be affecting you.

Don’t be scared or hesitant to get a second opinion. Doctors are not offended and instead respect patients who do get a second opinion.

Use the internet. And go beyond Google to blogs, chat sites, medical journal articles (you can learn to read them and get the essential info without having to look up every medical term—use the abstract and conclusion).

But all blogs are not equal. Avoid the ones that are obviously industry sponsored or just flaky. But don’t bring in internet printouts to your doctor. That is a turn-off for most doctors. Instead make bullet points notes to discuss with them.

Note: The insurance section was written in 2010 before the recent health law reform in the U.S.

If you’re having problems with your insurance company after a hospital stay, call the hospital. They are as interested as you in getting paid. Use patient advocates. Always explore generics and older drugs which are less expensive and have a proven track record.

Chapter 8 is a must read chapter. It describes how pharmaceutical and medical reps (the cute, attractive young people with sample cases you always see in doctors’ offices) influence doctors to prescribe their new, expensive drugs rather than older proven drugs or generics.

They spend $12 billion a year marketing to physicians (that’s $30,000 per physician). They employ an army of 90,000 reps, one for every five office-based physicians. These salespeople have extensive databases that tell them exactly what drugs a particular doctor prescribes. Drug companies wouldn’t do this if it didn’t work. 94% of doctors acknowledged they had some type of relationship with pharmaceutical companies.

The second must-read is chapter 9: “Don’t Let a Hospital Kill You.” Denis Quaid, the actor, was doing all he could for his twins being treated at Cedars Sinai. He was in the hospital room checking on everything when a nurse injected his twins with enough blood thinner to almost kill them. The pharmacy sent up the wrong meds which looked very similar to what the children should have received. The nurse didn’t notice. The lesson to be learned from this is that even in a major, well-respected hospital with a celebrity patient, mistakes often happen.

Don’t trust anyone in a hospital! If you don’t see them wash their hands before examining you, ask them to wash their hands again. Check every med you’re given. Ask for a daily medication list. If you usually get a yellow pill, why is this one blue.

This is “a book no household should be without.”
–Dr. Sanjay Gupta

If you have to go to the Emergency Room, ask your doctor to call ahead. The ER doctor will be much more attentive to you if your doctor talks to him.

Don’t be quiet and suffer in silence. Speak up if you’re not seen in a timely manner. Talk to the person in charge. Use the house phone and dial 0 and request to speak to the hospital administrator.

Everyone Should Read this Book

The Empowered Patient is an excellent resource for all patients with the basic tools to advocate for yourself—to become an empowered patient. This book shows you how to take your health care into your own hands. Everyone should read this book.

I agree with the quote by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This is “a book no household should be without.” portal link for‘The Empowered Patient: How to Get the Right Diagnosis, Buy the Cheapest Drugs, Beat Your Insurance Company, and Get the Best Medical Care Every Time’ by Elizabeth Cohen. This review is based on the customer review by Steve S. Ryan, PhD.


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