Becoming an Empowered Patient
I recently read the book The Empowered Patient, by CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. It was a very interesting read and I thought it would be a great place to begin this column. Because, frankly, when was the last time you walked into your physician’s office feeling empowered? If your experiences have been anything like mine, I would dare say, not often.
Unfortunately, when it comes to women’s health, and especially menopause, the medical community still seems to be at a loss as to how to treat the symptoms. Yes, things are improving. But, if in 2012, physicians are still giving women birth control pills, antidepressants, and Xanex for their menopause symptoms, I would say we still have a few issues to iron out.
But, this post is not about stirring up righteous, feminist anger toward physicians. It’s about providing a resource which can educate you so that you can actively participate in your healthcare. Yes, I know. It was so much easier during the days of paternalistic medicine where patients were passive and the doctor knew best. But those days are gone, and you can thank insurance companies, HMOs, and PPOs for that.
Becoming an empowered patient doesn’t mean you will no longer leave a physician’s office feeling frustrated. It also doesn’t mean that you will always get the correct diagnosis each and every time you seek medical care. What it does mean, is that you will have the knowledge to be able to improve the chances of being listened to, getting the answers you need, and therefore, better healthcare.
Menopause is a tough time for many women. Feeling isolated, alone, afraid, anxious, and misunderstood comes with the territory. But when you seek help for your symptoms, and instead, leave your physician’s office feeling dismissed and patronized (as many women do), those feelings can also turn to despair.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that we take personal responsibility for our health. That is not to say that we should self-diagnose or have an adversarial relationship with our physician. But rather, we should see ourselves as active and equal participants in our care. If we enter the relationship prepared, knowledgeable, and informed, then we have just improved the odds in our favor that we will get the kind of healthcare that we need.
While Elizabeth’s book doesn’t specifically address the healthcare issues and concerns of women in menopause, she does address common pitfalls and problems that every patient encounters in today’s modern healthcare system. Such as, how to:
- Find a doctor who “gets” you and listens to you
- Ask the right questions for the best treatment
- Make the most out of a short office visit
- Cut out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs
- Harness the power of the Internet for medical issues
- Fight back when insurance companies deny claims
If you are worried that The Empowered Patient is going to be a dry, academic textbook full of medical jargon, you can put your mind at ease. It is written with you, the patient, in mind. It is full of practical, helpful information combined with personal stories that read remarkably easy and fast. As a healthcare consumer – and we all are – it is a book you should not be without.