SURVIVING YOUR DOCTORS: Why the Medical System is Dangerous to Your Health and How to Get through It Alive” addresses the biggest issues in healthcare today,

“Every year at least 100,000 patients die in American hospitals because of medical malpractice… And that figure does not include those who are hurt or maimed,” notes Dr. Richard S. Klein, practicing physician and associate professor of medicine at New York Medical College.

SURVIVING YOUR DOCTORS is a timely and much needed guide enabling parents to protect themselves and their children from this failing system.

“Although we have no control of when illness strikes, it is better to avoid emergency rooms in the busy winter months. Generally, emergency rooms are busy all day on Mondays and during the evenings of Fridays and Saturdays.

Surviving Your Doctors

Especially avoid teaching hospitals during the month of July, when training staffs rotate or just start. Summer horror stories aren’t just fiction. The adjusted mortality rate rises 4 percent in July and August for the average teaching hospital. That is, eight to fourteen more deaths occur at major teaching hospitals than would normally without the staff turnover.

If I were a patient in the emergency room, I would have no problem saying to the examining physician, “With all the horror stories one hears about medical mistakes in emergency rooms and hospitals in general, I’m quite frightened to be here.” I would suggest you consider saying something similar.

That would serve notice and put the physician on heightened alertness, perhaps an “orange alert.” At the very least, it could snap the doctor out of the automatic routine and increase the chances of him or her actually thinking through your case thoroughly.

You could probably get the same effect if you drop in the line, “By the way, my brother is a very famous malpractice attorney!” So what does all this mean for you, the proactive patient?

The most important thing to get out of this section is not necessarily a diagnosis of your particular ailment (if you have one now)—and certainly not a fear of emergency rooms—but rather a sense of the many possibilities that your symptoms can represent and the many options for diagnosis of them.

Understanding these issues, knowing the emergency room conditions, and having a basic working knowledge of your body will allow you to ask more informed questions, give more descriptive details about symptoms, and, yes, even suggest possible diagnoses to your doctor.

It is your body, after all. Why shouldn’t you know it better than anyone else? Why shouldn’t you have a working knowledge of how this most precious part of your life operates?

For too long the medical establishment has made patients feel as if they were dependent on doctors and experts to understand their bodies, their health, and how to get and stay well. It has sown a myth that doctors are godlike or superior and hold the answers to your well-being. And it has created an epidemic of uniformed, intimidated patients who are either too afraid or, to be blunt, too ignorant about their symptoms, causes, and conditions to take an active role in their healing. Fortunately, that won’t be you anymore. 

Prescription

Find out what equipment is available in your local emergency room. If you are traveling, locate the closest emergency room and find out what is available there. Find out how many physicians and nurses work each shift per patient volume. Find out if there is a reliance on physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners. (They are knowledgeable but not as much as physicians, otherwise they would be called physicians.)

Inquire whether the physicians in the emergency room are board certified in emergency medicine. Ask if there is twenty-four-hour access to CT, MRI, and attending radiologists to read them. If you present with abdominal pain, demand a CT if it is not ordered.

Acute chest pain may be due to heart problems, lung infections, and, not as uncommonly as one would think, pulmonary embolisms, especially if the pain is increased with a deep breath. This condition can be diagnosed with a CT of the lungs. You know when treatments are rushed or inattentive or haphazard.

If you are sick, ask for a second opinion or ask that the hospital administrator to intervene. (Don’t take your treatment lying down! I mean, you may actually have to lie down for treatment, but don’t stand for just any treatment!)

Find out what subspecialists are available on a moment’s call (cardiologists, neurosurgeons, chest surgeons, etc.). Don’t hesitate to remind the on-call emergency room doctor of your concerns, considering all the errors made in emergency rooms and hospitals. It can quickly wake them up!

Avoid using the emergency room for regular office visits; you will wait forever, get substandard care in many cases, and clog their system with unnecessary visits. If possible, avoid emergency rooms in July (that is when the new physicians arrive in training hospitals). If possible, avoid emergency rooms on Mondays, as well as Friday and Saturday evenings. That is when they are the busiest.”

From SURVIVING YOUR DOCTORS, Richard S. Klein, M.D., Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. all rights reserved

Dr. Richard S. Klein, MDRichard S. Klein M.D., is a practicing physician specializing in internal medicine and infectious diseases, and has more than 38 years of experience in the medical profession. 

If you care about your own health and / or the health of others significant to you, you will want to read SURVIVING YOUR DOCTORS: Why the Medical System is Dangerous to Your Health and How to Get through It Alive.