How To Be Prepared
Lately, I’ve been reading The Patient’s Playbook: Find the No-Mistake Zone by Leslie D. Michelson. (I purchased my own copy and am not receiving anything to write this review. The opinions expressed are all my own.) The front cover says that this book provides “Expert advice to help you: choose the best doctors, select the right treatment plans, do better online research, organize your support team and prevent medical errors.” His aim is to “enable you to become a smarter, better health care consumer and to replace anxiety with confidence.”
It’s divided into three parts: how to be prepared, experts and emergencies, and what to do when serious illness strikes. The first section talks about how and why to find the right primary care physician (PCP) for you, three things to do to be better prepared when illness strikes, and how and why to collect a support team. To be honest, I had many emotions while reading this section. If you already have health issues this section may stir up feelings of guilt, anger, and pressure, because you did not do all these things before you became ill. I found myself questioning whether I had the right PCP and specialists. It also reminded me of past interactions with the healthcare system that were less than helpful and possibly harmful.
One of his preparation tips is to have copies of all your medical records in your possession. This would be reams of documents for some of us! Getting these documents is also not an easy thing to do even though we are legally allowed to have copies. I think that his ideas are important, just that this one will be much easier to implement for some one who is in good health than for those of us with chronic health conditions. The reason for having copies of your records, is so that you can read them and have them with you when you need to see a specialist or change doctors. One of his example clients, had notes from a specialist about a possible health condition written years before she was actually diagnosed with that condition. This is why he believes we should have our records in our possession.
He also instructs us to get our family medical history written down and kept with our medical records. Review your family’s health history with your PCP so you both know what possible future issues to be on the look out for.
Your Support Team
I found the section on having a support team very useful. When we’re not feeling well, it’s vital that we have someone who knows us and can speak up when we’re too ill to do so. Recently, I had to go to the emergency room (ER) for a sudden asthma attack. My son took me to the ER, but he had never been with me in the hospital. He didn’t know what questions to ask or what was good care versus poor care. I was too short of breath to talk. In retrospect, I need to educate my support team! I’m also thinking that I need to write down some question words on file cards, so I can ask questions without using too much air. Either that or a notepad and pen.
Experts and Emergencies
This section covers avoiding over treatment, finding medical experts in your health problem, and avoiding the most common mistakes in the emergency room. He proposes that the following things need to have happened in order to be in the “No-Mistake Zone”:
- You need a definite evidence-based diagnosis (what is the problem)
- The time to act is identified, either it needs done now or it is logical to wait and watch
- You’ve done research on your treatment options and have consulted with experts in your condition
- You clearly understand your “treatment plan and all that it entail(s).”
The author walks us step by step through how to do fine-tuned online research and get the answers that we need. He lists valuable online resources and methods to make the most of them. He strongly encourages us to not let anyone push us into a course of action without all of the above occurring first. Of course, if it is a matter of life or death we have to shorten this process accordingly.
Avoiding Mistakes in The Emergency Room
As far as being in an emergency room goes, his strongest message is to ask questions related to the items listed above. If you need surgery ask the surgeon questions about how many of these surgeries he’s done and if it has to be done immediately. If you have time, ask for a second opinion. Ask regarding other treatment options and the pros and cons of each. Have your support person call your PCP to get him or her involved.
Some of his suggestions need to be done before you have an emergency. To get the best care at an emergency room do some research before hand. Find answers for these questions:
- What symptoms require emergency help and what can be treated at an urgent care clinic?
- What kind of ambulance service do you have? Can they find your home in an emergency?
- Does your community hospital have board certified emergency room doctors?
- If you have heart problems, do they have board certified cardiologists?
- If you need trauma-related care due to a car accident, or a high fall, is your chosen hospital a Level One Trauma center?
His final advice for emergency and hospital care is to remember that you are the one in charge of your care. If you are not able to be in charge, this is where your support team comes in. He gives many resources for checking on the certifications of your providers and hospitals, and plans of action if you are having difficulty getting the care you need in the midst of an emergency.
What To Do When Serious Illness Strikes
In this section, the author discusses how to approach a serious illness in a professional way. He discusses the following four steps necessary to get into the “No-Mistake Zone”:
- Immersion- learning about your condition and who specializes in it
- Diagnosis-making sure you have the correct diagnosis
- Treatment-identifying the best treatment and doctor for you
- Coordination-making sure your doctors are acting like a team
One aspect of this book that I found really helpful, was his tips and examples of how to talk to doctors and ask questions in a way that builds communication instead of tearing it down. The author has years of experience navigating the healthcare system for his clients and for himself and the book is really helpful in that way.
The appendix of this book is packed with sample forms to create your own medical records binder, a pill inventory, a standard HIPAA release form which is used to request your medical records, and a list of 6 resources for your research on serious illness. He also has references in the back for each chapter of the book.
Finally, I believe this book is a worthwhile addition to your toolbox to help you navigate the world of healthcare and illness. The only problem I had was feeling overwhelmed at the thought of doing all of his suggestions and worrying if it was too late to start. After mulling his ideas over, I think his suggestions can only improve the medical care we get now and in the future. We just have to take them one step at a time. I think that preventing medical mistakes is vitally important to our health and to the health of our loved ones. Share this book with those you love. Stay in the “No-Mistake Zone” my friends!
If you found this article useful please share it with your friends and family. I wrote an earlier article about being your own healthcare advocate, that you may also want to read here.
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Till next time, Kathy