Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. - Marie Shear Recent speaking clients know that I often note the parallels between the patient movement and other cultural revolutions: the women’s movements, civil rights, gay rights, disability rights. (I mention disability issues less often, but it was disability advocate Ed Roberts who said in the 1990s, after years of struggle: “When someone else speaks for you, you lose.”) As anyone who’s heard me ...

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shutterstock_63021409 When I was a little girl, my dad was my hero. He was strong and brave, and it only took his presence to make me feel safe and secure. I thought he understood everything there was to know in the world. I believed he could solve any problem, slay any dragon, protect me from all harm. That’s the best thing about dads, ...

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shutterstock_135966185 In an age where technology dominates our medical world, communication between patient and doctor often leave me wanting. Over the last few years as a patient, I have learned a number of strategies to help bridge the communication gap with doctors. For patients: Speak up. Nobody likes confrontation, but it doesn’t have to be an argument if you are calm and respectful with your ...

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"All patients are alike. This one complains about the same things that the last one did." "Every patient is unique. We can never find a way to make each one of them happy." Remember that 1980s public health paradox: Do you focus on intensive interventions that might produce significant improvements in outcomes for a defined, high-risk group or do you direct energy to system-level changes that may achieve more modest outcomes ...

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Remember in second grade when you realized that you could say the word "giraffe" 25 times and it would lose its meaning, shed the image of that gawky creature and turn into a little pile of meaningless sound? You know, when you had your first insight into the wonders of language? I was reminded of this experience when, at a conference about patient engagement in health care, the word "dignity" was ...

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I loved my father. His doctor was fond of him, too. Three times we nearly lost him, and each time he pulled through, weaker, but enjoying life.  When the magical recovery didn’t materialize, it was hard to believe that this was really going to be the end -- hard for my family, and maybe harder for his doctor. No one wanted time with my dad more than I did. I wanted ...

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From years of writing about chronic pain and illness, I’ve learned that young people carry several extra burdens, especially when their disability is invisible (as is more often the case than not). This piece focuses on young people, although some of its points apply to people of any age, depending on their circumstances. 1. Young people are treated as if their health issues can’t possibly be chronic. I confess that before I ...

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I heard this on the radio recently: Mom takes her new baby to the emergency department on a weekend because she thinks her daughter might have a urinary tract infection. She's right, but regulations say the baby has to stay in the hospital for two days to ensure the infection clears. Afterwards, the mom is surprised by and concerned about a $7,000 hospital bill for the baby's care. The reporter says ...

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Hospitals are environments where emotions can run high. These emotions cross all boundaries and can affect physicians, hospital staff, patients and their families. Dealing with an “angry” patient is a common challenge that physicians face. The first step for a physician encountering an angry patient is to remain calm and allow the patient to express his or her concerns. In my experience, “angry” patients can be viewed as falling into several ...

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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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