This morning, the author of a book for laymen about preventing medical error, “The Life You Save, ” appeared on the Today Show. That should be a signal to us how prevalent medical errors have become.
Attorney Patrick Malone is a patient advocate, and he points out that we’re suffering from a pandemic of medical mistakes. Of course he makes money from these errors, so we have to take his opinion with a grain of salt, but he makes some good suggestions for patients about doing their best to pre-empt or stave off errors by doing their homework in advance of a crisis.
Here is what Malone thinks makes successful patients in this day and age:
• They clear up miscommunication before harm occurs.
• They persist in looking for cures when doomsayers have told them to give up.
• They refuse to accept “It’s all in your head” and learn how to unlock the puzzles of their bodies’ strange signals.
• They politely decline to have their bodies cut open by mediocre surgeons and negotiate access for themselves to the best surgeons and hospitals.
• They become literate in the statistics of their diseases and figure out how to use numbers to make wise decisions.
In the process, they learn that the best way to win the longest, healthiest lives for themselves is to take charge of their own health care and not merely turn their bodies over to an impersonal and broken medical industry.
Request a copy of your own medical records and read them.
This will tell you whether you are a good communicator and your doctor is a good listener. You can understand enough of our records to know whether you and the doctor are on the same page.
Choose a doctor who you think is a good listener.
All doctors are busy today, but some make you feel like they care what you say.
Partner with your primary care doctor. Don’t just hand your life over to him like a victim.
Choose a doctor with privileges at a good hospital. That way, if you must go to a hospital, your own physician can check on you.
Choose a doctor with a stable practice, good backup if he/she goes out of town, and acceptable waiting times.
Always seek a second opinion at any major crossroads.
In summary, patients need to learn more about taking charge of their own health. Marcus Welby, MD was only TV, not in real life.