Smith: It's a patient's job to be informed too

October 23, 2012|By Steve Smith

Concurrent with my duties as a weekly columnist for the Daily Pilot, I provide business development guidance to physicians and dentists.

Since 1998, this work has taken me behind the scenes at countless medical and dental offices, clinics and hospitals. I have consulted for solo practitioners, group practices and large medical facilities and recently spent two years managing my wife's treatment for brain cancer.

As a result, I am in a unique position to make the following statement: Forget everything you know about receiving medical care.


Younger patients, those in their 20s and 30s, may already have adjusted to the new normal in health care but the rest of us are discovering the hard way that in order to get what we want, we are often going to have to speak up — loudly.

The case in point today is a friend, Pat (not his real name), who complained of headaches, which often originated around his left ear. When I asked in which hand he held his cell phone, he said, "My left. I am left ear dominant."

I told Pat that I was concerned about a possible connection between consistent cell phone use and his headaches, which could indicate the presence of a brain tumor. Maybe not, but headaches were the first symptom exhibited by my wife, who died last June. I recommended that he make an appointment with his primary care physician and ask him to write an order for an MRI to rule out or confirm the presence of a tumor.

Pat told me he would make the appointment and said, "I'm sure he'll grant the MRI."

That's when my experience took over.

"It's not a matter of granting it," I said. "You ask him to write the order. Don't ask if he thinks it's a good idea, just say, 'Please write an order for an MRI of my brain.' That's it. If he refuses, we'll find a doctor who will write it." I wanted Pat to understand that he is the customer.

For those readers who believe that the MRI may be wasteful or unnecessary, I want to remind you that in May 2011, the World Health Organization reported that "…there is a possible connection between mobile phone use and malignant brain tumors."

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