Adversarial? Cautionary Tale? Common Sense?

I spoke to a group called the Institute of Retired Professionals yesterday. My talk was entitled Ten Tools You Can Use to Improve Your Medical Care. I just love presenting to folks who ask intelligent questions and can quickly make the leap to how to use my healthcare-consumer based points. This group, sponsored by Syracuse University (NY), was exceptional.

As I was being introduced, George, the president, told this story. See what you think:

Two patients limp into two different American medical clinics with the same complaint. Both have trouble walking and appear to require a hip replacement. The first patient is examined within the hour, is x-rayed the same day, has a time booked for surgery the next day and, within two days, is home recuperating.

The second sees the family doctor after waiting a week for an appointment, then waits eighteen weeks to see a specialist, then gets an x-ray, which isn’t reviewed for another month and finally has his surgery scheduled for six months from then.

Why were the two patients treated so differently? (think about it………….)




Because the first is a Golden Retriever. And the second is you or me.

(Thanks for sharing, George.)

Then I reviewed the ten tips, which include everything from suggesting patients double check their prescription drugs, to never asking the doctor you currently see to refer you for a second opinion (find the second opinion doctor yourself) to my overarching point at all times: to remember that American Healthcare is not about health or care (it’s about sickness and money). Once I was finished, the questions and comments came fast and furiously.

One gentleman commented that he and his wife had both had very good care from their doctors, and he felt my comments about “the system” came across as being adversarial.

I had to think for a moment. Are they adversarial? Or a cautionary tale? Are they offensive? Or defensive?

I finally responded to him with this: As I mention several times throughout the talk, no doctor ever intentially hurts a patient, no facility ever intentially makes a patient sicker, no pharmacist ever intentionally fills a prescription incorrectly — but those errors happen every day to people just like him — and me.

Between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans DIE from medical errors and misdiagnosis each year — and if providing tips to patients so they can work toward the best care for them comes across as adversarial — so be it.

I would rather provide adversarial-based common sense ideas that may make patients become over cautious, than learn later that being polite had not made the same between-the-eyes impact that so many patients need to support their need to advocate for themselves.

It’s like teaching our children to drive defensively. I guess this is teaching presentation attendees to seek medical care defensively. It’s all just common sense.

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Trisha Torrey
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