Navigating the Dangers of American Medicine Today

Navigating the Dangers of American Medicine TodayDr. Julia Hallisy decided to write a book to share what she learned about the dangers of American medicine — particularly inside hospitals — and how consumers could become educated and take charge where it matters most.

Thanks for your responses to my last book review.  I am continuing the theme this week with another new book that came across my desk, The Empowered Patient by Dr. Julia A. Hallisy (Bold Spirit Press, 2009).

Dr. Hallisy had a very ill child.  Her daughter was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma and she battled malignant tumors for over 10 years.  This heartbreaking history gave Hallisy and her husband an inside look at being a consumer in the American medical system.

It was not an encouraging picture.

As a result, Hallisy decided to write a book to share what she learned about the dangers of American medicine — particularly inside hospitals — and how consumers could become educated and take charge where it matters most.

Her message echoes what we teach (and preach!) on the CreakyJoints site — that you have to be in charge of your healthcare.  But because of the errors and missteps that she observed, Hallisy takes our core message even further.

She has practical advice and has scouted out some of the places where medical errors can and do occur.  There is a chapter on infection — of real importance to anyone with an autoimmune disease who has to be in the hospital.

Another chapter describes hospital protocol, including the designations of hospital personnel and what that title means.  Who knows the hierarchy of the hospital staff — whether a surgical resident has more or less education and experience than a fellow or a third year resident?  She has a handy chart to help you navigate the “doctor chain of command.”

She includes action steps to avoid medication errors, keep track of your own medical files and tests, and how to ask hard questions (and what those questions should be).

Two of her chapters deal with second opinions, and how to make a complaint and communicate about concerns.  Those are tricky issues, and there isn’t a lot of how-to advice or encouragement to step into that sensitive terrain.

This author is candid, and she really delivers the “empowering” message of her title.

As we in the CreakyJoints community know, health care is a team sport.  (One of Seth’s favorite sayings!)  It is the partner, friend or family member who helps to navigate these difficult places with the patient.

This book is written as much for those on your team as it is for the person with the illness. In fact, it seemed to me it was more important for the one who is not in the bed to read and absorb as much of this information as they can.  It may be too overwhelming to try to stand up for what you need from a horizontal position — especially when you’re in pain or recovering from anesthesia!

So get the book for the teammate, or better yet, read it together and make joint notes on what is most important for your situation.

I hope you never need this book — but it is a great “just in case” resource.  And for those of us who are already dealing with a slew of medical concerns, Hallisy’s advice may be just in time.

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