Friday, January 11, 2008

Help your doc help you....

The illustrious Dr. Jerome Groopman (who was recently interviewed on NPR) recently published a new book, How Doctors Think. It's an expanded version of an article he wrote for The New Yorker.

This is a more engaging read than one might think at first blush, in part because of Groopman's liberal use of stories and anecdotes. These illustrate the information he really wants to share with us: the facts that (a) doctors are not perfect, (b) they make predictable errors in diagnosis, often due to cognitive or emotional biases, and (c) we--the general public--can help doctors avoid these pitfalls if we know what they are. By asking, for example, "Is there anything else it could be?" or "Is it possible that I have more than one problem?" we can help the doctor consider options she may have overlooked.

So why is this relevant to you, the WBP reader? Well, two reasons leap to mind. The first is that women continue to play the role of healthcare decision maker for their families, and so we're often in the best position to ask the right question at the right moment. The second is that my own mom, and many other moms of my acquaintance, have shared their stories of "knowing something was wrong" with a loved one, even when the doctors weren't able to find anything at first. Though Groopman doesn't seem to think of it this way, a piece of advice that fits right in with the rest of his argument is "Trust your own intuition--at least far enough to ask the doctor that one more question."

1 comment:

Kelly Hills said...

It's a really lovely book - I gave it to my sis for Christmas, but read a good chunk of it in the bookstore before deciding to actually give it to her (she starts med school in the fall, and shares my love of books in this sort of narrative doc format). I'd highly, highly recommend it to anyone who finds narrative and medicine interesting.