I recently finished my professional certification as a Healthcare Consumer Advocate. It is a 9-month certification piece required in my graduate studies that qualifies me to be an advocate in the healthcare system.
I’ve found the entire topic of advocacy fascinating, particularly since it is now a burgeoning field in our ever convoluted, ever expanding monstrosity, that we currently call our healthcare system.
That an entire new field is opening up specifically to help patients navigate the healthcare system should be a clue that we have problems. Our system is too big, too complex, and grossly inefficient. But, I guess we can thank insurance companies, managed care and HMOs for that problem.
Shakespeare had the right idea, you know. But, instead of “first, let’s kill all the lawyers”, it should have been, “first, let’s kill all the insurance companies.” I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of insurance companies. I put them right up there with used car salesman and labor unions. Not a fan.
During the recent debates for revising our healthcare system, the statement was oft made that, “all Americans should have health insurance.” I couldn’t disagree more. What all Americans need is health care – not insurance. But, I seriously, digress.
In my studies in healthcare advocacy, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many fine people who are out front in the field, in addition to reading some excellent books on the subject. One book in particular, The Empowered Patient: How to Get the Right Diagnosis, Buy the Cheapest Drugs, Beat Your Insurance Company, and Get the Best Medical Care Every Time, by CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, was one of the more interesting and useful books I’ve read on the topic.
Let me tell you why:
How many times have you gone into your physician’s office (or any physician, for that matter) and left frustrated? How many times have you felt like you weren’t able to adequately communicate what your health concerns were? And how many times did you feel he or she hardly gave you the time of day?
I dare say, often.
The Empowered Patient addresses all of these issues and more. She even gives you tips on how to “beat the insurance company.” Gotta love that!
What I continue to hear from the readers of The Perimenopause Blog is an overwhelming sense of frustration at not being heard by physicians. Unfortunately, women have always felt patronized by the healthcare system, and frankly, rightly so.
For literally thousands of years, male dominated medicine has treated women as nothing more than lab rats who are routinely dismissed as “hysterical” or “emotionally unbalanced” if for some reason the practitioner is unable to diagnose or understand her medical issues. But, don’t get me started on that, okay?
Instead of getting real help for our perimenopause symptoms, we usually get handed a prescription for birth control pills, anti-depressants or Xanax and a dismissive pat on the head for good measure as they breeze out the door.
I can’t tell you how many women have asked me what to do, what to say, and what to ask when they go to their doctor with perimenopause. I must confess, I feel as frustrated as you all do.
15 years ago I was right where many of you are – certain I was going crazy, and that my entire life and body was falling apart, and not one person seemed to have the first clue in how to help me.
To say I was frustrated is an understatement. Distraught is a much more fitting adjective. In fact, that is why I began this blog in the first place. Because, darn it, SOMEBODY needed to step up and ring the bell for women with this issue.
That is why I want to highly recommend that you ladies read this book. But, before you all groan and roll your eyes because you think it’s going to be some technical, dry, academic treatise that will put you to sleep quicker than Ambien, let me reassure you, it is NOT that type of book.
It is an easy read – very easy. But, it is chocked full of excellent, useful information that you can take to the bank – or better yet, your physician’s office.
In fact, one of the most useful pieces of information I gleaned from the book was the 23-second rule. You know, when your physician comes in and you start explaining your symptoms? Then after about 23 seconds, he interrupts you? There’s a name for that. It’s called, “redirecting,” and it’s the doctor’s way of controlling the conversation – because you couldn’t possibly know what is really wrong with you, right?
Here’s how it works:
Once they interrupt you with questions about your symptoms, they have just taken over the conversation and decided in a flash that your symptoms are A, B, & C and that you simply need D, E, & F. Then, just like that, they’ve whipped out that prescription pad, handed you some birth control pills, anti-depressants or Xanax, and poof! The wind carries them away.
Not long after I had read that little gem I found myself engaged in the 23-second conversation with a physician. And right on cue he did it. He interrupted. But, thanks to what I had just read, I was able to effectively steer the conversation back to my symptoms and concerns.
Seems like a small piece of insight. And frankly, it is. But, it yielded great fruit when I was in the physician hot seat.
I would highly recommend the book, ladies. But only if you are interested in:
- How to find a doctor who ‘gets’ you and listens to you
- How to ask the right questions to get the best treatment
- Make the most out of a short office-visit
- How to cut out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs
- How to harness the power of the Internet for medical issues
- How to fight back when claims are denied
I wish our healthcare system had not evolved to such a state that books like The Empowered Patient would be necessary. But, the unvarnished truth is that it has, and if we are going to get the kind of healthcare we need, we must learn to navigate it successfully. The Empowered Patient will definitely help you do that.