Book Giveaways

The Patient's Playbook

November 30, 2015


Leslie Michelson has written a book on how to be a better healthcare consumer that could literally teach you "how to save your life and the lives of those you love."

Our general manager, Sally Haldorson, wrote bravely and beautifully about her husband being diagnosed with leukemia in her review of Brene Brown's Rising Strong. Soon after that review was posted, a book arrived in our offices entitled The Patient's Playbook. Both books come from imprints of Penguin Random House, and our sales rep Deb Lewis, a long-time and trusted colleague of ours, sent a follow up message making sure we received The Patient's Playbook and suggesting we take a close look at it. Sally took it up, and found a companion to Rising Strong, a book that provided the practical steps to navigating the healthcare process that mirrored Brown's steps to navigating anything that knocks you off your feet—as serious illness literally does.

After a back and forth that included Sally asking for another copy for our owner, saying "I raved about it, and she'd like to take a look (and I'm guarding my copy with my life.) I'd love to gift this to everyone ... it's really something everyone should have." Deb, as she always does, went the extra mile, saying "I agree, everyone should have a copy" and sent us a whole box.

So, everyone in our small company is now armed with this excellent tool, and Penguin Random House was kind enough to send along enough copies to spread the good word beyond us, so we'd like to offer some of them to you here.

Sally wrote up some of her thoughts and feelings for that purpose, which I've posted below.

Regardless of whether you are a supporter of The Affordable Care Act or not, one thing we all have in common is that we will all have to navigate the healthcare system at some point, a system whose recent history and current state is one of upheaval. Insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers, and the end users are all having to adapt to new rules, new charges, new fees, terms, conditions, and restrictions. This means that the individual needs to be an even more involved consumer in his or her own healthcare decisions.

But that's the difficult thing, right? Going to the doctor, even for a preventative physical or for some ease from an ongoing cold or sore knee is an anxiety-provoking experience. Some of us are nervous about discussing our bodies with near strangers, while some of us are uncomfortable asking for help. A few of us have a deep distrust of anyone who claims to be an expert, wondering just who that person is serving. And many of us have experienced the dread of a doctor looking at one thing only to find something else—something more, something, well... dreadful. Even without the complications of acquiring and using the insurance to cover it, anything having to do with medical treatment involves some resistance and nail biting.

So what is a person to do? How can we protect ourselves from the growing expenses and ever-changing rules buried in a complex healthcare system while still pursuing the best care for ourselves and the people we care for? I'd say, turn to Leslie Michelson and his new book, The Patient's Playbook: How to Save Your Life and The Lives of Those You Love. Honestly, folks? This could be the most important book you buy all year, or even your entire life.

While that sounds a bit hyperbolic, consider just opening the flyleaf:

Too many Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical error—mistakes, complications, and misdiagnoses. And many more of us are not receiving the best care possible, even though it's readily available and we're entitled to it. The key is knowing how to access it.

The answers to those grave issues we make from cradle to grave are what Michelson, a professional healthcare consultant, offers in The Patient's Playbook. While it may seem (and is, to some degree, a reality) that there are significant economic and social biases embedded in healthcare in this country, Michelson presents a method for all people to access better care.

At the risk of oversimplifying, that method breaks down to this: learn to ask the right questions of the right people. Michelson advocates finding a trustworthy Primary Healthcare Provider who can become your partner in health decisions. At the same time, he also counsels you to do your own research when you need a specific procedure done in order to find a specialist who with a lot of experience. While you may feel more comfortable having your local, already trusted physician perform the procedure, if he or she has only performed it a handful of times rather than hundreds, the results are less likely to be successful.

That seems like a no-brainer, right? But how many of us feel empowered to do ask for what we need? We often think that money buys those specialists, but really it's about making the same kind of effort we might make when buying a new car.

You do not need wealth to get excellent medical care. What you really need—and what you now have—is competence and courage. You will be a far smarter patient for following the lessons in this book. You have power as a health care consumer.

The Patient's Playbook is chock full of relatable stories and useful summary guides and lists to help each of us obtain better, or even the appropriate, care. For example, just making the right choice between calling 911, rushing to the ER, choosing Urgent Care, or waiting for an appointment at your doctor can be intimidating, but Michelson will help you with his "Emergency Room 101" guide. Perhaps the section with the most impact on me was Part 3: "What to Do When Serious Illness Strikes." This is a section that I have flagged generously with post-it notes as my husband is currently undergoing cancer treatment. And I can tell you first hand that I wish we'd been "pushier," or rather more assertive, in finding answers to his initial symptoms rather than swallowing the easier-to-swallow, but not at all accurate, initial diagnoses. Of course, even this feeling is remedied when Michelson writes:

[L]et's stop worrying about the things we didn't do last year, or the actions we wish we had taken yesterday. Instead, let's focus on where we are now. Resolve to move forward, with a clean start, and do all you can today to get the best possible outcomes.

So Michelson doesn't only give us easy-to-follow guidelines; he also offers an empathetic understanding of the things that keep us from demanding good and prompt care—even or especially when one of those things is fear—so that we can take that scary step forward toward better health. And while most of us don't have a consultant at hand to help us map out a strategy, Michelson does encourage each of us to find a coach or teammate to take the journey alongside us, and possible, to take the wheel when needed.

Part of the process involves accepting the reality that you may need help. You might think you can manage everything yourself. But you just don't know how you will react to a scary diagnosis.

And that is the 100% truth. Within every conversation about healthcare is also a conversation about our mortality. While none of us want to go through chemotherapy or surgery or chronic disease maintenance, one thing is true: if you don't act as a defender of your health, who will? And with The Patient's Playbook on your bookshelf, you will have a game plan for turning defense into offense in order to take control of your own healthcare.

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