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The Decision Tree: How to make better choices and take control of your health Paperback – Bargain Price, March 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; 1 edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605291684
  • ASIN: B0062GL9ME
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,916,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mr. Goetz has compiled a sophisticated and thought-provoking consumer update for those inclined to captain their own medical destinies." May 25, 2010 --New York Times

"[Goetz] provides useful suggestions on how individuals can use data, the Web and technology to make better medical decisions and manage their own care.
"Wellness Reading List: 5 Top Picks of 2010" Dec 21, 2010
--Wall Street Journal

About the Author

THOMAS GOETZ is the executive editor of Wired magazine. He holds a masters in English Literature from the University of Virginia and a master's in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two boys.

More About the Author

THOMAS GOETZ is a science journalist and healthcare innovator. The entrepreneur-in-residence at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, he is also co-founder of the health technology company, Iodine. The former executive editor of WIRED, his writing has been selected for the Best American Science Writing and Best American Technology Writing anthologies.

Born in Minneapolis, Thomas comes from a family of healthcare providers, including his father (an internist), his mother (a registered nurse), and his two sisters (a public-health worker and a surgeon). Thomas currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and two boys. Formerly a reporter at the Village Voice and the Wall Street Journal, he holds a master of public health degree from the University of California Berkeley and a masters in literature from the University of Virginia.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Shigeki Minami on February 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a physician with a public health background, I have a healthy amount of scepticism when 'the next great book' comes along and claims to change the way we live. However, while reading Goetz' book, it didn't take long for me to realize I was in for a wonderful surprise. Perhaps it is his background as an editor at Wired magazine that makes his writing so engaging. Combine that with a solid grounding in the public health arena and the result is impressive. Although written with the patient in mind, this book will serve as an invalubale tool for clinical practitioners and epidemiologists alike. It opens a window into the field of medicine that I found fascinating and highly educational. More importantly, it gives us a glimpse at the way the doctor-patient relationship will look in the future. And, whether we like it or not, as Goetz eloquently reminds us, we would be wise to take notice now.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Irfan A. Alvi TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When it comes to assessing the problems with our health care system and identifying ways to make it better, this book by Thomas Goetz is among the best I've ever read. Hopefully, it will be highly influential, especially considering that we live in an age when most of the "easy" medical problems have been solved and the hard ones remain (eg, cancer and many chronic conditions). Goetz proves to be an incisive analyst, a creative thinker, a balanced pragmatist, and a lucid writer.

The main idea presented in this book is that decision tools need to be developed which enable all available information to be rationally, systematically, and efficiently assembled and weighed in order to cost-effectively maximize individual and collective health outcomes. In other words, health care needs an engineering approach. This is really just common sense, yet our health care system unfortunately falls far short of this ideal, so we need books like this to help open people's eyes.

Here are some further key points from the book:

* Patients need to play an active role in their health care decisions, using physicians and other health care professionals largely as consultants, and collaborating with other patients in sharing information.

* Health care information (medical records, drug labels, etc.) needs to be presented in a sensible standardized format and made easily accessible online on a real-time basis.

* To account for biological heterogeneity among people, preventive measures and treatments need to be tailored to each individual. Thus, the information used to make decisions must include both statistical information drawn from populations as well as specific information particular to each individual (both phenotypic and genetic).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By L. Gildart TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The prose is in this book is engaging and often anecdotal, which is good, because the subject matter is so dry and dense that I really wanted to give up a few times. I'm very glad that I stuck with it, because the book does describe a very useful method for gaining and using medical knowledge about oneself. At its most basic, a "decision tree" is a flow chart comprised of a logical series of questions and answers that starts with the information one has, and progresses through "if A is true, what do I do next?" hypothoses, potential diagnoses, treatments, etc. until one has developed a plan of action. Or inaction. Sometimes, the decision tree leads the patient to leave things be.

But the book jumps from premise to anecdote to new premise, almost as if the author's brain is working too fast for his word processor.

And it's a bit rambly. It took somewhere between 50 and 60 pages to even point out that regular people can order their own DNA analyses, which is really what they need to do before they can design an effective decision tree (based on the concept that our health is the combined result of genetics and environmental factors. Once we know our genetic risks, we can make informed choices to avoid or ameliorate many, if not most, environmental triggers.)

Although the book addresses the fear surrounding the giving and the getting of this knowledge - the idea that patients will collapse, quit their jobs, become erratic in general if the news is bad - it neglects the financial incentive, in today's insurance climate, to avoid genetic testing if one wants to remain insurable.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Fox on February 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Goetz catalogs the recent advances (and setbacks) in medicine & personal health, but also maps out the possibilities for how things could get better. He does this so convincingly that you can't believe it's not already taking root: clear labeling on drugs & food, passive tracking of our exercise routines, open access to our health data.

There are enough lessons for self-improvement in the book that I found myself comparing it to What to Expect When You're Expecting, but since Goetz focuses on the big picture (prevention, diagnosis, disease management) it is more like What to Expect When You're Expecting a Long Life.

Unlike the pregnancy bible I read 10 years ago (and more than once threw across the room), Goetz doesn't preach from a lofty whole-grain pulpit. He doesn't think we should ask people to do more, nor should we scold people for every mistake they have made, but rather we should give them tools to make better health choices.

You know how MDs are always asked for cocktail-party diagnoses? This book is for all the MPHs who stood nearby wishing that someone would ask them for on-the-spot health advice.
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