Bewildered, panicked, and disheartened. I watched my mother’s eyes dart back and forth as she read the pharmacy’s prescription cash price list, knowing she could not possibly dig deep enough in her faded purse to pay for her monthly medicines. In her early fifties, she did not qualify for Medicare, nor could we afford the COBRA payments that would extend coverage for our family since my father’s recent lay off. We ...

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There's a pesky cognitive bias that creates a honking big barrier to patients and families making the most of the health advice and services available to us. It's the tendency of experts to overestimate the knowledge of others. One consequence of expertise -- or even just easy familiarity with a topic or institution or practice -- is the inability to remember not knowing what you now know. Think back to your ...

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I went to see my oncologist for my six-month checkup yesterday. All was routine, other than my blood pressure being 131 over something when it's usually in the 115 range, even when I see my family doctor. No anxiety there. When he asked what had changed in the last six months, I told him about the endoscopy I had in December, which turned out to be normal. But what prompted it ...

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When I read news articles about caring for elderly parents at a distance, I sometimes shake my head. There's a tendency to put the best spin on the experience: As long as you contact the right people, get the right information and treat the ups and downs as just part of life's challenges, you'll be fine. You can do this! I find myself wondering when the author last talked to a caregiver ...

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In a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, “Quality of life: impact of chronic illness on the partner,” the authors stated: "… the most striking research finding is a tendency for the partner’s quality of life to be worse than that of the patient." The people who are least likely to be surprised by this finding are not just caregivers, but those who are in their ...

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From a mother: What my childs oncologist should know Please let us know that we’re not alone. We realize that our doctors are not our friends, but telling us that the medical team will be sticking with us during this journey that we were never on board with, is an empowering message when we are at our most powerless. Show us that you care about our child, too. We know that you identify our ...

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It looks like an airport lounge without the rolling suitcases. There are about 20 of us cancer survivor-types fiddling with our phones or reading the newspaper. A few of us are sipping delicious contrast fluid in preparation for a scan, but most of us are waiting to meet with our oncologists for follow-up or monitoring visits. All of us are between the ages of 20 and 70 and all of ...

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Attempting to alter the health care marketplace so provider decisions are based on patient value has shaped my career for the last 20 years.   Often use of the health care delivery system creates a learning opportunity for me as well as the poor, unsuspecting provider of care.  A recent experience was instructive. A close encounter with a jungle rock while mountain biking sent my husband back to our cruise ship with ...

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Do I value the privacy of my health information? What do you mean? That if I email my doctor about an embarrassing symptom, only my doctor will read it? That only my doctor, my nurse and I have access to the information in my electronic medical record, including notes on our confidential conversations, prescriptions and test results? That my local drug store doesn't sell information about me to pharmaceutical companies? That if I ...

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Uncle Walt died this morning. Finally. I say "finally" because I believed this day would come four months ago, when he had emergency bypass surgery. At the time, I didn't believe Walt would live; he was an ailing, seventy-seven-year-old man with severe pulmonary disease. When his heart started to hurt one Friday, his doctors told him, "With bypass surgery, you might live. Without it, you'll be dead before the weekend is over." Walt's ...

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