Monday, June 4, 2012

Better Care, Fewer Worries

I'd like to teach every adult American how to be an empowered patient and how to advocate for his or her loved ones. But until that Shangri-la day, my growing band of colleagues and I are working one-on-one to help people get the care they deserve with the fewest hassles. 

Part of being in a helping profession is understanding psychology and respecting human nature. Patients need support during decision making because they're frightened; families want help because they're tired and worried during their loved ones' hospitalizations.

I want to help alleviate that worry, not add to the distress. Which is why I rankle a bit at the title of a book I just purchased: Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them

I don't want to seem dismissive about the gravity of medical error -- it is shocking! But clearly the title of this book is an attempt to play on our fear of medical errors.

The book provides some interesting information, formatted around categories of "screwups," and liberally sprinkled with first person accounts of bad medical care. And to their credit, authors Joe and Teresa Graedon have included top 10 screwups that patients make. My ambivalence is not about the content. Fear-mongering aside, I endorse any means of encouraging patients to be proactive.

And hey -- I bought the book!

Here are some of the less-frightening, more patient-empowering checklists offered in Screwups. These useful lists from the back of the book summarize its content and make it immediately useful.
  • Questions to ask your doctor before agreeing to surgery
  • Top 10 tips to promote good communication
  • Top 10 questions to ask your doctor when you get a prescription
  • Top 11 tips for preventing dangerous drug interactions
  • Top 10 questions to ask to reduce diagnostic disasters
  • Safe patient checklist
  • Top 10 tips to stopping screwups in hospitals

Publishers will remind me that the information is useless unless people receive it, and that "sexy" titles and SEO is required to attract readers. I suppose there's truth to that. But I got this far without exploiting any patients' fears and I think I'll keep doing it my way.

1 comment:

SOCOACH said...

"Publishers will remind me that the information is useless unless people receive it, and that "sexy" titles and SEO is required to attract readers."

While I agree that SEO makes for quicker links to readers who are searching for specific information, it forces a writing style that is far from friendly. It's stilted and awkward and, after a while, readers feel as if they're being "played" That makes me feel more like a used car salesperson and less like someone who has important information to share.

So, I'm with you, philosophically. Write from the heart, share good information and help people understand the complexities of health care.

They'll find you.