It’s rare that I will pick up a paper book by choice and read it anymore. But, every once in a while a book will come across my view that I want to read bad enough that I will deal with the paper. That’s what happened a few weeks ago when I saw The Patient’s Playbook by Leslie D. Michelson show up in my Amazon Vine queue. As soon as I saw this title I knew I had to read it and I hoped it would be worth it.
If you are a regular here you know I don’t often share book reviews, maybe one a year. It’s not because I don’t read them. I read a lot. I’m usually reading a fiction and a non-fiction at the same time and often those non-fiction books are related to health. It’s just that rarely does a book make me want to bother with a review, and I won’t bother sharing a review here unless there’s something about the book to make me recommend it. In this case I not only recommend you read this book, I highly recommend it. This is a MUST READ for anyone who is a patient at any level, as well as caregivers.
The book starts at the beginning at something most of us give little thought to –finding a general practitioner. I don’t know about you but I’ve gone through three in the last five years. And, now I know why. The reason is simple I didn’t put much effort into finding or choosing the right GP. I did what most of us do. I asked friends for suggestions, I even asked for suggestions at the ER. Then I took those suggestions and hoped for the best. I showed up at the new GP and I signed a form so that they could get my records from my old GP (did they? I have no idea) and I went along my merry way calling my GP only when I needed basic healthcare or when I wasn’t sure which of my specialists to bother (or didn’t have a specialist for whatever the issue seemed to be). Sounds pretty normal, but I did it all wrong.
Michelson’s advice on finding a GP makes complete sense after you read it. We invest a lot of time in choosing just the right car, the right TV, the right school, the right job. But, we put little thought or effort into finding the right GP –the one person who could be our best friend and eventually the quarterback of our health team. Our GP should be the person coordinating our care. They should be one medical person we can trust to know what is going on with us, to keep up with our meds (with help from us), our medical records, or regular testing. But, instead we treat them like an urgent care and expect them to work without any help from us. Michelson gives step-by-step instructions for finding the right GP, for making sure they have the right information, and that they can do the best job for us by working with us as a team.
Next Michelson tackles something I’ve been working on this year –putting together your medical records. He explains how to get copies of your medical records and how you should go about making sure that your records stay up to date. How you can read through them to check for errors or even to find clues to what may be going on with you that doctors never bothered to share with you. I’ve heard the story many times of people who finally reached out for a copy of their medical records only to read something written by a doctor a decade ago about the possibility of one issue or another that was never mentioned. These clues can be just what you need when you are chasing what appears to be a complicated medical issue.
Michelson explains what to do in case of emergencies and how to make sure you get the best treatment when there is an emergency. He gives advice on knowing your local medical centers and what their specialties are, so that you know which hospital to choose in an emergency. He explains how to find the best medical experts and specialists when you need them.
This section brought to mind my own fairly recent experience. Back in 2012 I began having abdominal pain. I started with my GP and he sent me from specialist to specialist and no one could find anything. I finally ended up at my gynecologist (upon recommendation from my GI doc) to determine if the cause might be endometriosis. The only way to determine for sure if you have endo is through exploratory laproscopic surgery. I’d been dealing with this pain for months at this point and just wanted answers. She’d already recommended me to a pelvic pain specialist previously for other issues and I had an appointment with him in a couple of months but I was impatient. I trusted my gyno so I said “Let’s do it”. I didn’t think twice about how often she does these surgeries or that her specialty is delivering babies. She said the surgery was no big deal and I’d be up and around in a day or two. So we scheduled it about a week before Christmas. She found endometriosis (a lot of it) and even ended up removing part of a fallopian tube. The endo was so extensive that she couldn’t remove it all. She recommended that I go on a pretty heavy-duty med to try to stop the endo and left it at that. A few months later I saw the specialist (that I should have waited for). He said I didn’t need the med, that he could go back in in a few months (after I’d healed from the last surgery) and clean up what was left behind. A few months later he did just that. Had I just been patient and waited for him, it would have all been dealt with at once by a trained expert rather than by a gynocologist who had never seen a case of endometriosis as bad as mine. Don’t be the test dummy.
Finally, The Patient’s Playbook addresses “What to do When Serious Illness Strikes”. Many of us are already there, but it’s not too late to learn. We have to learn to be the quarterback of our healthcare, or to find someone who can be. To find trusted friends and family members and to put together a trust team of medical advisers who can and WILL work together.
Most of us just think that we have to float along doing whatever the doctors tell us and questioning nothing. We have to put up with poor quality healthcare and deal with doctors that know little about our specific illnesses because they spend their time treating a myriad of issues. But, we don’t. We do have a choice in our healthcare and we have a very important role in our healthcare. The Patient’s Playbook explains that role. It explains what our job should be and how (when necessary) we may need to delegate all or part of that job. Michelson explains how to communicate with doctors, and how to make sure that you have all of your information and present yourself in a way that doctors will take seriously. When you walk in as an informed patient with the right information and present yourself, doctors want to help. They know that you are serious about your own healthcare and they will take it seriously, too.