REASONS TO RETAIN A PATIENT ADVOCATE WHEN YOU FACE A SERIOUS ILLNESS
"Based on my own personal experience, it is so helpful not just to have a member of the family who is a physician but you can have a friend as well.
It doesn’t have to be a terminal illness. You can be going through something that is befuddling to you.
I’ve often used the phrase that most patients go into a doctor’s office as if it’s a Mayan temple and they don’t speak the language and whatever the doctor says they absorb…
What I’ve been recommending to my friends who are going through long-term serious illnesses—not necessarily cancer— you need a friend who is a physician off to the side. So that physician can become—man or woman—your interpreter and someone who can do independent research for you."
Tom Brokaw, NBC News Anchor and cancer patient since 2013
An Evening with Tom and Jennifer Brokaw
Chautauqua Institution, August 27, 2015
It’s not easy for patients to deal with the healthcare system on their own when they face a serious illness. Choices have to be made under the most difficult circumstances.
As a prominent physician put it after learning she had a malignant brain tumor, “It’s horrible, it’s shocking. It takes awhile to digest what’s happening.” But then she began combing through the latest medical literature, talking to experts and doing what physicians do for themselves and their families when a serious illness strikes. (1)
Most patients have no physician in their family to play that role. They and their families are on their own. To safeguard their care, they have to:
(1) educate themselves about alternative approaches to their problems and the risks and benefits of those alternatives;
(2) identify a physician and hospital with an appropriate level of experience for providing needed diagnostic and therapeutic services;
(3) communicate key medical information and personal preferences in short periods of contact with a physician.
Patients who are unable to do those things may fall prey to “the serious quality gap” described below by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. One option is to retain a medical advocate.
A medical advocate is an independent physician who helps patients deal with doctors and hospitals and cope with every day realities of the health care system like these...