Patient’s Playbook (★★★★★)

The Patient's Playbook
Leslie D. Michelson  *  Knopf  *  September 1, 2015  *  336 Pages

Oh my God. This book is amazing. Life-changing. Eye-opening. In the first few pages, author Michelson says, “By the time you finish reading this book, you will have completely rethought the way you interact with care-giving and hospitals.” And he’s 100% right. I couldn’t believe how much good advice is in this book. I’ve already implemented a few changes in my own life, and there are some other tidbits of advice that I am going to save for when I (or one of my family members) faces a major medical situation.

Here are some of the best recommendations Michelson gives:

  • Find a good primary care physician and develop a good relationship with her or him.
  • Plot your family’s medical history. What did they die of? What major illnesses did they have?
  • Get a copy of ALL your medical records.
  • Find the closest emergency room now, BEFORE you face a major medical emergency.
  • Find the closest PEDIATRIC emergency room, since kids, especially babies, need their own specialized hospital.
  • Carry a USB drive with your important medical information in your wallet.
  • Have a note on the back of your driver’s license that lists your medications, medical conditions, allergies, and contact info.

And when I or someone I love is having a medical crisis, I am going to remember to:

  • either be or find a “quarterback”:  a detail-oriented, organized, emotionally savvy advocate who is good at research and can be in charge of looking at the medical situation holistically.
  • look for doctors who have published articles about your specific diagnosis, and then contact said doctors to ask for opinions or referrals.
  • educate yourself about your specific disease–before treatment (unless it’s a true emergency situation).
  • do not begin treatment until you know your specific diagnosis and all of your viable treatment options.
  • do not over-treat.

And there is much more. I took so many notes while reading this book. I now feel way more confident in my ability to handle a major medical diagnosis. I feel genuinely prepared to talk to doctors, ask for help from specialists, research conditions (Michelson lists MANY good research resources), choose the right treatment, and work to coordinate care between my doctors. Also, Michelson explains in detail his steps to achieve the “No Mistake Zone,” and I will definitely consult that list if I’m ever in crisis.

I think one of the things I love most about this book is that Michelson affirms that we are not crazy to be intimidated by THE SYSTEM. Interacting with hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, etc., is overwhelming. Like me, most people assume doctors know what they are doing, that there is a black and white way to interpret tests and symptoms and treatment plans. But truthfully, this is complicated, nuanced stuff. And doctors are just people like the rest of us. Most are trying to do the best job they can for their patients, but they are rushed and stressed, too. I felt like Michelson gave me permission to acknowledge the anxiety that interacting with the healthcare system brings, but then to stand up for myself and for my family. There are a bunch of doctors quoted in this book that say they actually LIKE when their patients are educated and involved and ask questions. And if a doctor is annoyed if I try to dig deeper to better understand what I’m being told, that indicates a problem with the doctor, not with me. There is something extremely validating about that message.

In short, I finished this book and I felt that I had, indeed, changed the way I plan to interact with my doctor (and especially my kids’ doctors). I feel empowered and much more knowledgeable. I am so grateful I read this book at this point in my life. I feel like I have time to prepare for an emergency, and I feel infinitely more ready to act when I (inevitably) find myself in a medical crisis. What a valuable resource.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s