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on August 26, 2010
Well, yeah, I guess we are. I tried to go into this book with a critical eye, and since I consider myself a pretty health-care-savvy individual, I was ready to be insulted at being lumped in with every stupid mistake all the rubes make all the time. Well,if you're with me on that self-assured bandwagon, I think we'd better get down and take a closer look at this book.

When I consider each of Trisha Torrey's 10 mistakes honestly, I must admit that at one time or another, over the years, I've made every mistake. More important, the full title of the book (and it's long enough to make Harlan Ellison blink) tells you exactly what you're going to get from the book:

You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes--How to Fix Them to Get the Health Care You Deserve.

That "How to Fix Them" is the real important part. This is a clear, easy-to-follow handbook to wending your way through the healthcare jungle. Also, the examples are awesome. Everyone should have this book.

I'm certainly not going to repeat all of Trisha's brilliant advice (she tells you how to do your own differential diagnosis--how cool is that?), but since the latter part of the title is the real meat of the book, I don't think I'm giving much away by telling you what the 10 mistakes are and why I think they really do apply to just about everyone. Now, honestly, look at these and ask yourself which ones you've NEVER made:

1) Thinking your healthcare is focused on you, the patient. Plans for your surgery were so carefully spelled out that it was easy to feel like some kind of VIP. That ends the first time a nurse comes in to check on you and doesn't have the faintest idea why you're there, or when a doctor on rounds picks up your chart and can't make out the instructions.

2) Thinking doctors put their patients' needs first. If you believe this is the case, why does the doctor always ask the same questions his nurse asked? And why won't most of them communicate with me by phone or email?

3) Not confirming your diagnosis. Have you ever accepted a diagnosis without asking for a second opinion? I have. It's easy to do when the explanation sounds rational. Remember, it sounds rational to the doctor too. She's not trying to give you a bad diagnosis.

4) Thinking you've been told about all your treatment options. I know this is true. I know that most doctors don't know ALL the options. This can be incredibly important when the doctor doing the surgery only knows one way to remove an organ, and you end up in recovery for six weeks. Later, you find out that the hospital across the road does that procedure laparoscopically, which offers a recovery time of less than two weeks.

5) Thinking you are safe in the hands of the healthcare system. If you think this, next time you're in a hospital or an in-patient rehab center, ask why some of the patients' rooms are marked "Quarantine."

6) Not understanding the reach or risk of medical records. In their brilliant 2004 exposé on medical mistakes, Internal Bleeding, Robert M. Wachter and Kaveh G. Shojania include an appendix of abbreviations that are commonly misread when written in haste. One simple example, D/C can mean "discontinue" or "discharge." Written in the wrong place, you could end up with your pharmacy refusing to fill a needed prescription because they think your doctor gave a "discontinue" order. These records are hard to get your hands on (a lot of people are fighting to change that), expensive to reproduce, and hold your life in their pages. Oh, and then there's that whole identity theft problem.

7) Spending time in the hospital when it's not absolutely necessary. We're going to keep you overnight for observation. Really? Necessary? For whom? This is the doctor's way of covering her own back acreage.

8) Using the Internet without a compass to find health information. It's easy to tell when you've done this. You can see it in the little half-smile on the doctor's face that you've found some treatment ten years out of date or that's simply from an unreliable source. I haven't done this, but my ex-wife did it--often.

9) Believing all medical researchers are searching for cures. Yeah. When I was younger, I believed in the noble scientist striving for the truth. Now, of course, I've seen the results of the Scott Reuben trials for research fraud. He signed his name to a dozen or so research papers (even added the names of colleagues who'd never heard of the research) and published the "results" in supposedly reliable, responsible, professional publications for review. Why? Well, the projects were funded by multi-billion dollar pharmacies. I wonder what his motivation might have been.

10)Letting the media determine your medical choices. The television blasts us with "Ask your doctor about..." ads. The papers tell us that this research or that offers a "miracle cure." The ads are trying to get us to help pressure the doctors for the pharmaceutical reps. The papers are trying to sell themselves with sensationalism. We all know this, but--hey--who doesn't want to believe in miracle cures?

That's the lot. I don't believe in absolutes, so I know that not EVERY patient makes ALL of these mistakes. They're all damned common, though. I forget who said it originally, I hear it all the time from patient-rights advocate Regina Holliday, but "we're all patients in the end." We all end up weak, in bed, and (if we're lucky) very old. At that point, you'll wish you had this book. Everyone needs Trisha's book. If you can't afford a copy for everyone you know, at least get one for anyone going into the hospital. You just might save a life.
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on October 11, 2011
I admire Trisha Torrey for her spiritual strength and willingness to share a very personal story and transform it into a guide that can keep the reader out a lot of unnecessary misery--or a grave. If you have never suffered major medical crises, reading this book can teach you the mistakes the easy way.

It's too bad I cannot mail this book back in time: I learned about Mistakes #1 and #2 the hard way in 1993. That spring, I went to my university's health clinic after learning that I might have Marfan's syndrome, an uncommon connective-tissue disorder. The nurse looked me over, ordered a chest x-ray, and gave me a clean bill of health after the x-ray showed nothing abnormal. Luckily I did not have Marfan-induced damage to the aorta. Such damage commonly escapes detection on chest x-ray--but still ruptures without warning and kills the patient. Suspicions led me to do some research; I discovered that only an elaborate series of exams and body scans can diagnose or rule out Marfan's syndrome. When I returned to the clinic with this information, the nurse acted more concerned about being right than my health.

Despite being a little wiser about rare medical disorders, I made Mistake #3: Not Confirming Your Diagnosis, later that same year. I ended up being diagnosed at a different clinic with another, less-dangerous connective-tissue disorder. Nice, except it was wrong. I let my feelings of "at least it isn't Marfan's" get in the way even though the new diagnosis left unanswered questions. That mistake turned and bit me in, artery, when I had a stroke-like episode that led me back to the suspicion of Marfan's syndrome. (Cardiovascular manifestations usually occur in one's twenties but can be delayed until the forties in some patients.)

That second clinic is supposed to be proficient in the field. However, I discovered just this year that the doctor's specialty is in autism and other neurological disorders. Would you take your car to a brake shop to rebuild the transmission? I wouldn't, either.

Whatever disorder I have, You Bet Your Life has already become instrumental in realizing what went wrong (besides what I already knew went wrong) and navigating the health-care system to get proper diagnosis and treatment.

Trisha Torrey's message is refreshingly different than the common ones about personal responsibility, which focus on blame and encourage self-scolding. She quotes Dolly Parton, who said, "We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." You Bet Your Life! is about empowerment: You're the captain of your own ship; take charge of it; here's how.

I have a Ph.D. in a biomedical field, and that helped me research and find information to tackle my conundrum. I can also attest to the soundness of Ms. Torrey's chapters on evaluating and finding scientific studies relevant to your condition. Since few patients have science Ph.D.s, these chapters are indispensible. Besides, having an advanced degree won't keep a patient from making mistakes, as I learned the hard way.

Very helpful (and important) is that Ms. Torrey does not engage in "physician/provider bashing." She pulls no punches regarding the doctor that misdiagnosed her with cancer, other than withholding his name. However, she details the problems of American healthcare from the professionals' points of view as well. The book focuses on ten top mistakes we patients make in managing our healthcare, regardless of why things go wrong.

In Chapter Eight, Ms. Torrey recommends seeking help from nonprofit charitable organizations related to your diagnosis or condition. In my case, it was one of those groups that recommended a website that led me to You Bet Your Life!

Chapters Eighteen through Twenty-three are instrumental for surviving this (mis)information age. The Internet and other media are bounties of life-saving information but also are fraught with falsehoods, errors and downright quackery. Ms. Torrey provides a fantastic crash course in critical evaluation of what you find, so you can separate what can help you from what might kill you, gyp you, or both.

If you prefer e-books, you might want to buy You Bet Your Life in a paper version as well as a back-up. E-books have their advantages (I like the search command), but this is one of those situations where a book that doesn't require batteries is a need rather than a bonus. If there were a "Mistake #11," it might be to read the book, stick it back up on the shelf and leave it there. No, this is one to consult regularly.
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on February 10, 2010
Don't send flowers if you have a friend in the hospital. Send "You Bet Your Life" instead! It's the best resource for patient empowerment on the market. I read widely in this field (because of the illness of several close friends and family members), but I have never found a book that "talks turkey" to patients as clearly and knowledgeably as this one does.

Who knew that I might be insulting a doctor if I showed up in his office with a computer print-out? Why didn't I think about the fact that not every "doctor" in a medical office or hospital is a full-fledged M.D.? Or that there could be treatment options a doctor might never mention to me? "You Bet Your Life" taught me all this and more, as well as how to deal with such circumstances. It helped me negotiate the often indifferent, even hostile, U.S. health care system and ensure the best possible care for my loved ones.

The book is very moving, including sad stories about people who suffered and died at the hands of the American healthcare system but also comical quips that made me laugh out loud at Torrey's pungent dissection of the choices we make about our healthcare that simply don't make any sense...

The book is an easy, enjoyable read, providing a wealth of practical tips that you can start to use even before you finish it.

Bedside flowers wither and must eventually be discarded, but you will turn to "You Bet Your Life" again and again for its solidly-researched, immediately-actionable words of wisdom. Highly recommended!
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on July 19, 2010
Trisha Torrey did an outstanding job on providing priceless information for patients. Trisha's book is an excellent resource to add to your collection. The book is very easy to read, in layman's terms, and offers patients and patient advocates the map to safe healthcare. Trisha's book gets to the core of behind the scenes in the healthcare arena. She shares her personal experience of being misdiagnosed with cancer and how she herself made the correct diagnosis. Trisha's book is a vital tool for every patient and patient advocate. I am thrilled Trisha came forward to share her expertise and vast knowledge to save patient lives. If colleges included Trisha's book in their healthcare curriculum for nurses and doctors, it would impact healthcare tremendously. I highly recommend this book to all healthcare professionals, it provides education on how to prevent fatal medical errors and enhance clinical skills. Great job Trisha, I can't wait to see what you come up with next!
Lannette Johnston RN, BSN, MS, CPST
Founder & President LaJohn Healthcare Consultant, LLC
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on March 1, 2010
Trish Torrey has done an outstanding job of providing mission critical information needed by anyone who is seeking care in today's American health care system.

Her book is written with the layman in mind providing easy to understand, consumer friendly guidance and tips that are easy to put into action. As health care advocates, we understand how simple misunderstandings in communication can lead to devastating outcomes. The unquestioning trust in health care professionals is no longer the right approach if you are interested in maintaining and improving your health. Trish provides you the tools necessary to participate as an informed medical consumer.

Every health plan in the US should do themselves a favor and offer their subscribers a copy of Trish's book and it should be required reading for every medical and nursing student. Until that happens, do yourself a favor and buy Trish's book.

Ida Schnipper, RN, BS, BSN, MA
Founder and CEO
Heath Champion LLC
in your corner
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on February 19, 2014
There is a lot of good information in this book - I commend the author for writing this much needed book. In the right hands, the suggestions given will provide a wise - i.e. diplomatic - patient the tools needed to get better healthcare. In the wrong hands - i.e. in the hands of an amateur "healthcare crusader" - however, it could lead to worse healthcare as doctor's are human too.

A Doctor-Patient relationship needs to be a cooperative partnership, not an adversarial proceeding which could easily happen if a previously frustrated patient gets carried away with their "newfound powers". And, if that patient decided to change doctors and ask for their medical records to be sent to a new doctor, more than medical records could be conveyed to the new doctor's office.
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on January 31, 2010
You Bet Your Life - The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes is a fantastic book. It is well-organized, well-written, entertaining, and insightful, and anyone who is dealing with an illness, or whose loved one is dealing with an illness, will find this an invaluable resource.

Even as a health professional who worked "in the trenches" for over 20 years, I have had great difficulty helping myself and loved ones navigate the hostile halls of the healthcare system. It almost seems as if the entire system is designed to stymie and confuse patients. (It wasn't actually designed that way, that's just how it evolved. But since it serves everybody's purposes to keep patients in the dark, it isn't going to change.) And, as many patients learn the hard way, when things get tough there's nobody within the healthcare system you can count on any more to guide you through those dangerous times. Relying on the kindness of strangers, or on the beneficence of harried and beleaguered healthcare workers, is an iffy proposition. It is the patients who empower themselves who have the best chance of coming out of this sorry process relatively unscathed.

You Bet Your Life is an excellent guide to empowerment. Trisha Torrey (who tells her own compelling story in the book) takes you, step by step, through the things you need to know about the healthcare system, and shows you what you need to do to take charge. Torrey does not use euphemisms - she gives it to you straight.

Torry shows why patients make mistakes, and gives you the "rules of engagement" you'll need to survive your healthcare encounters. She provides excellent discussions on making sure you're getting the right diagnosis, figuring out what ALL your options are once you have the right diagnosis, and making the correct medical decisions for yourself. She also provides practical advice for obtaining (and interpreting) your own medical records, surviving a hospital stay, using the Internet productively to get accurate information, understanding medical research, and interpreting the breathless medical reports you hear in the media.

You should read this book from front to back, then keep it handy for the next time you find yourself facing off with the healthcare system.
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on February 4, 2013
Trisha Torrey writes with great clarity and humor. She is speaking to patients in their language and introducing to a country of poor health care consumers the skills needed to prevent the errors so often made and then experieced by those who 'leave it all to you doc'.
The errors she reviews from a point of view of a physician (me) are committed so often and so often are unconsciously dished out. While reading her book I sometimes sit back and recognize some of my own attitudes.
From understanding a patients options and the importance of learning the right decision for you, her chapters reveal resources to use to gain knowledge about what's available in contemporary care.
So many doctors really think they are acting on the patient's behalf. They are earnest and honest when doing so. But we do what we are trained to do , like to do, and are paid to do. So is it a wonder that we suggest you do what we ask you to do? Torrey make it clear how and when and why to express yourself.
This is must reading for patients and a good portal to becoming a sophisticated patient and self rare in our otherwise consumer savvy society
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on June 26, 2010
Trisha Torrey writes as if she's your best friend, and her friendly advice is not only warm, it's spot-on accurate. Like a truly good friend, she doesn't mince words or sugarcoat the hard facts about the underbelly of healthcare delivery in the U.S. These are facts you need to know, digest, and share with the people you love. With each of the 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes, Torrey offers loads of practical information to help patients get better, safer healthcare. Torrey is every patient's advocate and you could not have a smarter, kinder healthcare partner.

Make no mistake -- Torrey's book is essential reading for everyone.
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on February 10, 2010
As a healthcare advocate, I am grateful to Trish Torrey for writing this book, I recommend it to my clients because it offers great information on how to navigate the healthcare system. My clients feel empowered by reading about Trish's experience with the healthcare system and don't feel so helpless. Trish offers insight into ways to make the healthcare experience less stressful, scary and depressing. She gives great tips on how and what to do to get what you need. This book is a must for all healthcare advocates and their clients.
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