PREPARED PATIENT BLOG

Patients and experts explore what it takes to find good health care and make the most of it.

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Patient Engagement: Here to Stay

Jessie Gruman | July 1, 2014

What is patient engagement and what does it take to accomplish? With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CFAH set out to explore this concept as it was viewed by various diverse stakeholders. Our interviews with 35 key health care stakeholders lead to an impressive unity of opinion...

Seamless Health Insurance Coverage Still Illusory

Trudy Lieberman | June 30, 2014

For ages we've all known that the U.S. health insurance system works splendidly for those who have good employer-provided coverage, slide smoothly into Medicare when the time comes and seldom get sick. But evidence is beginning to trickle in that this seamless pathway for some people who've signed up for Obamacare insurance may be more illusory than real...

Bring a Companion to Your Next Doctor's Appointment

Danny van Leeuwen | June 26, 2014

Should you bring someone with you to your next doctor's appointment? If you're asking, the answer is yes. If you're asked, how do you be the best companion? Prep in advance, listen, record and ask questions. Know why you're going. That means two things...

All You Do Is Complain About Health Care

Jessie Gruman | June 25, 2014

"All your Prepared Patient essays do is complain about your health care and your doctors. That's why I don't read them." Yowzah! Do I really complain? Not to be defensive, but I don't think so. Every week I work to vividly describe insights that might shine a little light on this project that patients, caregivers, clinicians and policymakers – well, the list goes on – share of trying to make health care more effective and fair...

Beware Those 'Average' Premium Increases – or Decreases!

Trudy Lieberman | June 24, 2014

Never before have I seen such intense interest from the press about health insurance rates, normally considered a snoozer of a story. For the public, this may be a good thing. If the stories are done well, consumers might learn something about the mix of factors that go into determining the premiums they will pay. But in the last couple of weeks, some stories have been downright misleading...

What Would Mom Want?

Michael Wasserman | June 23, 2014

We've watched it many times on television or in a movie: The patient lies in the intensive care unit, gravely ill, with the family at the bedside. The doctor walks into the room and asks, "What do you want us to do?" and opens up a huge can of worms that is, in fact, ethically incorrect. The first priority that a physician has is to their patient...

Don't Let the Sun Shine Down on Me (It's Too Complicated!)

Jessie Gruman | June 18, 2014

I'm impressed by how much we struggle with seemingly simple health decisions when faced with sorting through too much information. Every week we view diverse arrays of products with health, convenience and cosmetic claims competing for our attention. Think yogurt, Gatorade, running shoes, breakfast cereal...Given the ubiquity of such products and the swirl of marketing and science- or non-science-based information surrounding each, I'm wondering three things...

Pushing Back Against the High Price of Prescriptions

Trudy Lieberman | June 17, 2014

Are we finally doing something about the high prices of prescription drugs? Maybe. At the end of May, the Washington-based National Coalition on Health Care launched "Sustainable Rx Pricing," a campaign to "spark a national dialogue" about the high cost of drugs. Will it work?

Not So Easy to Stop Care When the Patient Is a Loved One

Margaret Polaneczky | June 16, 2014

To those of us who have had a loved one succumb to cancer, who had to negotiate the frightening choice between the rock and the hard place, always holding out hope for another round of chemo...we know that reining in health care costs will mean more than just raising co-pays and lowering drug costs and funding more effective interventions. It will also mean quashing hope. And learning to tell ourselves the truth...

Don't Forget the Hefty Price We Pay to Engage in Health

Jessie Gruman | June 12, 2014

Media-fueled flip-flops and research breakthroughs on lifestyle and health behaviors are wearing down my usual patience with the provisional nature of science. Even simple dietary recommendations like lower fat/salt recommendations have become complicated as old truisms are overturned by new evidence. So I'm asking: To whom should I turn for meaningful guidance about modifying my risk for illness and boosting my health?

Stop Expecting Antibiotics to Be Handed Out Routinely: Here's Why

Trudy Lieberman | June 10, 2014

For years, my colleagues on the Prepared Patient site have preached the importance of being an advocate for your own care. And they've noted that at times it is necessary to push back against doctors' recommendations if a suggested treatment does not seem right. I just returned from a visit to the U.K., which drove home the importance of that advice...

Ask Questions Before Surgery. You May Save Your Own Life.

Heather Thiessen | June 9, 2014

I am wheeled into the operating room and walked to the bed. As I get to the table I am so cold and nervous, I begin to shake. I lay down on the operating table, thinking it seems very narrow and hoping I don't fall off. I hear one of the nurses say, "We have the Heparin ready for the new port." I freeze. I lift my head and say, "I'm allergic to Heparin." The anesthesia I've been given kicks in at that point and I drift off to sleep, hoping things go all right...

Entitlement: The Overlooked Dimension of Patient Engagement

Jessie Gruman | June 4, 2014

What does it means to be an "engaged" patient in the VA system today? It seems you have to know a senator who will intervene on your behalf, to give your health care a priority higher than his other constituents. This is deeply discomforting, and I hate that I am treated in a health care system where even those who are most accountable for the quality of the care it provides (the institutional leaders) can't trust the institution or the professionals who work there to routinely and uniformly deliver excellent care...

Cancer Screening: Understanding 'Relative Risk'

Kenny Lin | June 3, 2014

I have offered before a few reasons for eligible patients to consider not getting screened for lung cancer. I concede, however, that reasonable people might conclude that the potential harms are outweighed by the benefit of reducing one's risk of dying by one-fifth. The next critical question that needs to be asked is: one-fifth of what?

Pulling the Plug on DNR Orders

Muriel Gillick | June 2, 2014

Recently, a friend commented that she was not sure whether or not to agree to a DNR order for her 90-year-old mother. Complicating her decision was the knowledge that her mother had chosen a DNR status when she was cognitively intact, but then reversed her decision at the time of acute illness, believing that DNR meant she would not receive vigorous medical treatment. This is incorrect, and physicians are confused as well...