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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2010
As an MD, I read Elizabeth Cohen's book with tears in my eyes. It just tapped into my own sadness that a book like this even needs to be written. Doctors are supposed to be there to help people. We're meant to be a person's advocate. I went to medical school because I'm committed to helping my patients heal. And yet, the system is sorely broken and no band-aid is going to fix these boo boos any time soon. The truth is, this book is vitally necessary. You DO need to understand the system and know how to work it. You can't just sit back and say, "I trust you, Doc." Until things get better (and if I do my job well, maybe they will), this book will help you known how to advocate for yourself and those you love the way I did.

If you want to learn how to take your health care into your own hands, I highly recommend this book! This book teaches you exactly what you need to know in order to get the most value out of your health care dollar, haggle with your insurance company, find Dr. Right and fire Dr. Wrong, pay less for drugs, avoid a misdiagnosis, make the most out of learning from the internet, get your medical questions answered, stay safe in the hospital, avoid falling prey to medical marketing, and learn to be a "bad" patient.

Buy it. You'll love it. You'll read it more than once. You'll tell everyone you know about it. And if you pay attention, I promise you'll get better health care.

For more about Elizabeth Cohen's book, visit my website for a complete review:


Lissa Rankin, MD
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2010
Elizabeth Cohen and I first compared notes about patient empowerment in 2007, before many people were talking about the necessity for patients to understand the healthcare system and how to advocate for themselves. We had an immediate connection - both of us had suffered at the hands of the healthcare system, and both of us are driven to make sure we prevent others from suffering needlessly, too.

These years later, Elizabeth has penned an outstanding primer for kickstarting that process in patients. Just as the title promises, readers will come away with the foundation of understanding why they need to step up, and the basic tools they need to advocate for themselves - to become empowered.

The Empowered Patient is so very readable. It's full of stories - I dare you not to choke up! But it's humorous where appropriate, too. Reading Elizabeth's writing is like carrying on a conversation with a good friend.

Most impressive is the wealth of resources she's tapped into to provide her stories and advice. From patients, to medical professionals, to other authors, to her colleague Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) or even Deepak Chopra, she's interviewed them all and provided us with an insider's view of the medical world we might not otherwise ever understand.

Do yourself a favor and purchase this book. You'll better understand your own role in getting your own best healthcare, and you'll have access to the tools you need to get started.

Trisha Torrey
Every Patient's Advocate
Author of You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes- How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare You Deserve
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2011
Elizabeth Cohen turned her investigative eye to the healthcare industry. A CNN Senior medical Correspondent, Elizabeth offers practical advice on how to:

Find a doctor who understands and listens to you, Ask the right questions for the best treatment, Make the most out of a short office visit, Avoid getting a misdiagnosis, Cut out of pocket costs for prescription drugs, Harness the power of the Internet for learning about medical issues, Fight back when insurance claims are denied, Keep safe in a hospital

The author combines stories and crucial advice on receiving the best possible health care. She has a personable, informative and conversational writing style. As a legal nurse consultant, I have seen far too many patients who were unaware of the practical advice Elizabeth dispenses. This is a book that will leave you feeling informed and armed with helpful guidelines.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2010
I've always been an empowered patient, so I didn't need to be sold on the concept. I'm a cancer-beating patient blogger, I'm co-chair of a medical society about doctor-patient partnerships, and I wrote my own book. So my question was, what does this book bring that's new?

What it brings is convincing stories, clear explanations, and concrete how-to's. It's short, comprehensive, and convincing. I don't see how you can NOT read it if you're responsible for someone's care, including your own. It awakens you to possibilities and risks, leaving you aware and enabled.

(Disclosure: Cohen wrote a quote for the jacket of my book, which is selling a million times slower than hers. But her view is different from mine. I've worked for weeks figuring out how to express the differences here.)

I'll start with the author's challenge, then how she handles it, then my objections.

The first big challenge for an author in this space is that *people tend not to care* about quality until trouble hits. And when it does, there's an instinct to not rock the boat: people want to stay put, to believe they're getting the best care possible. It's not rational, but I've seen it repeatedly: people are loathe to step out of the boat they're in, especially in troubled waters.

It's hard to hear that care might fall short, but it can. And there are many causes: human fraillties, lagging technology, information overload, even business ethics.

And here's the author's dilemma: the better you prove this with story after story, the more readers might feel powerless and turn away.

So how do you reach people?

This is where Cohen's mass media skills come in. She knows how to tell a story concisely, dip into the underlying reasons, and come back up with some concrete "Here's what to do's." There's an art to this: her own stories about her baby and her mother sometimes brought me to tears, but I wasn't turned away as I sometimes am. I was left feeling *this stuff matters*, and patients can help. By wising up, thinking for themselves, and speaking up.

Objections: if Amazon had a 100-point scale I'd give it a 95, not 100. First, a stylistic nit: it's obviously written by a TV person. Time after time she injects, "Coming up, I'll tell you how you can xyz"; I could almost hear "...right after this message." But people who think "She can't be serious, she's on TV" are wrong: every one of her anecdotes rings true, based on the many people I've met at conferences, and almost all her "What you can do's" are spot-on.

I agree with Mack90's comment that dot-gov sites are not quite as valuable or perfect as the book suggests: they can lag behind or be editorially skewed, no guarantee of "bestness." I've seen plenty of outdated information about my own disease (kidney cancer) on sites that match her recommendations, including sites with seals such as HON. But I don't feel as strongly about this as Mack90 does.

Finally, I object pretty strenuously to the title of the opening chapter: "How to be a `bad' patient." I'm clear that Cohen's intent (as she said yesterday in the New York Times) was to reach people where they are - speaking into the mindset of the mass market she talks to professionally, where many people feel it's not good (or even safe) to question one's doctor. I get the point, but I would have preferred to word it "It's *OK* to be a `bad' patient." In my view, "how to be bad" is a rough start for a book about empowerment.

But that brings me back to the top: this book brings mass-market communication skills to an area where many of us have worked hard to wake people up. Our books have contained much more information from different angles, but this could be the breakthrough that opens millions of minds.

"e-Patient Dave" deBronkart
Co-chair, Society for Participatory Medicine
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2010
It's refreshing for a doctor to read an informed patient's analysis of our current health care system. I came away feeling humbled, grateful, frustrated, yet hopeful.

Although some physicians may be insulted by the author's characterization of the medical profession, she cuts to the quick in identifying dozens of problems inherent in the American system. As I read, I couldn't help thinking that many of these difficulties must plague other health care systems as well: the time pressure that doctors constantly struggle against, the flawed communication between patients and physicians, the many obstructions to finding the correct diagnosis for every patient, the dangers of hospitalizations.

'The Empowered Patient' is a practical patient-oriented manual for dealing with the current health system as it is, warts and all. Elizabeth Cohen does a great job demonstrating how informed and persistent patients can make the best of an imperfect system. I expect her discussion of the doctor-patient relationship will embolden many a person to speak up, demand what is needed, or change doctors if necessary.

Her chapter on internet medicine should be a wake-up call to physicians. In this age of information overload, it's impossible for a physician to be an expert on every disease. We need to find better ways to work together without feeling threatened. As the author points out, individual patients have more time to research their own condition than does a physician. I, too, have had patients help diagnose their own problems by sifting through hours of medical information. I appreciate Elizabeth's advice for patients to seek out trusted web sites (which she identifies), and how to approach your physician with a summary of the information.

Again and again throughout the book I was struck with how time pressure undermines our current health care system. Doctors are compelled to crank out patients, at least if they want to stay in business. Hospitals are understaffed, leading to communication problems and treatment errors. Although physicians may grasp a plan of therapy for an individual within minutes, it takes much longer for a patient to comprehend something new and unfamiliar. Payment is determined largely by documentation, and if forced to choose between direct patient care and documentation, professionals (who need an income) are forced to choose the latter.

I appreciate how the author has chosen to reach out to patients who need help navigating our current health system. These problems will not be solved overnight, so her advice will remain relevant for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Cynthia J. Koelker, MD
'Doc Cindy'
Author, 101 Ways to Save Money on Health Care

101 Ways to Save Money on Health Care: Tips to Help You Spend Smart and Stay Healthy
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Here's a little quiz:

1. Do you bring a detailed but concise list to the doctor's office of your symptoms and concerns?
2. Are you always willing to wait hours to see your doctor?
3. Do you ask your physician if there are less expensive medicines that are just as good as the pricey ones?
4. If you or a loved one is hospitalized, is there someone on hand to ask the nurses and doctors to wash their hands, check the drugs administered to make sure that they are the correct ones in the proper dosage, and verify that the right procedures are carried out?
5. Before you undergo surgery, do you double check with the surgeon that he knows what operation he should be performing on you?
6. If your doctor interrupts you, seems distracted, or does not answer your questions satisfactorily, do you passively accept this treatment?

An empowered patient would answer: Yes, No, Yes, Yes, Yes, No.

Elizabeth Cohen clearly delineates what we, as health care consumers, can do to make sure that we are getting the most effective and economical treatment for whatever ails us. Cohen, the senior medical correspondent for CNN, provides a wealth of knowledge as well as engrossing anecdotes that will appall and frighten you, especially if you are one of those naïve individuals who trust anyone wearing a white uniform. In fact, the author opens the book with her own horror story of miscommunication between doctors and nurses that occurred when her newborn was undergoing treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit.

According to Ms. Cohen, "some 99,000 Americans die each year from infections they acquire in the hospital, and as many as another 98,000 die from medical mistakes in the hospital." She cites the example of Dennis Quaid's twins, who were given an overdose of heparin in the hospital. The babies should have received a drug called Hep-Lock "to flush out the IV lines and prevent clotting." Instead, heparin, which is "a thousand times stronger" than Hep-Lock was injected into their IVs, not once but twice. Quaid, speaking on behalf of himself and his wife, stated before a congressional committee that this was "the most frightening day of our lives." The babies' blood was thinned to such an extent that it "was flowing out of every place where they had been poked or prodded." The fact that that Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace Quaid survived is miraculous.

"The Empowered Patient" is a treasure trove of valuable information about finding Dr. Right, avoiding a misdiagnosis, using the Internet to help you stay on top of what you need to know, doing battle with insurance companies, and making your visits to the doctor's office as productive as possible. Cohen's writing is superb--clear, to the point, enlightening, and filled with words of wisdom from patients and medical professionals. Although most doctors and nurses are dedicated, hard working, and caring, they are often harried and pressed for time. Preoccupied individuals can and do slip-up; everyone is human.

Dr. Jerome Groopman, the renowned author of "How Doctors Think," says, "Look. You're sick. You're desperate. You're like a child and the doctor is the parent." He continues, "Like a little child, we want to trust the parent who can get us out of danger." If only our relationships with medical practitioners were that simple; since they are not, we must learn to speak up for ourselves. Although an empowered patient may not always emerge from the doctor's office or hospital unscathed, at least he or she has the knowledge and self-confidence "to navigate the minefield of today's health-care system."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2014
Not just the same old stuff! I've read several books of this nature, but this one has a wide variety of information not included in any of the others, like how to look for the email addresses of experts in any medical specialty. Even the Introduction is well worth reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 19, 2010
The Empowered Patient is a must have guide to protect your health and wealth from improper treatment. If you, your family member or friend are facing health issues, I highly recommend you purchase this book and use it to advocate for the best treatment from doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance providers.

Elizabeth Cohen, speaks from her own experience and research. She provides you detailed facts and resources that will inform and equip you to verify or even challenge, the decisions of a health care profession.

The Empowered Patient will discuss:

-- Websites that will allow you check on your doctor.
-- A worksheet to prompt you to ask the right questions and get facts from your doctor.
-- Special questions for complicated problems.
-- How to get out of medical debt.
-- How to control your care at the hospital.
-- How to research your condition on the Internet.

This information alone will make a difference in your treatment. However, this book provides so much more information that it really should be called: "A Handbook For Patient Advocacy."

James Garton
Author of 25 Ways to Make Money Online
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2012
"The Empowered Patient" is a short, easily read book that makes important points all patients should consider.

At times we all need to be "bad patients," not Mr. Nice Guy or Gal unwilling to rock the boat or be a "nuisance." When it comes to medicine, trust no one completely. 99,000 patients die each year from infections they acquire in hospitals, and another 98,000 die from medical mistakes in hospitals.

And when you see your doctor, the diagnosis will be wrong one out of four times. When you have a lump and the lab does a biopsy, one out of ten times the pathologist will make the wrong call. And 7% of the time doctors fail to inform patients if they have had an abnormal test result. Doctors are human and play favorites---women, blacks and the obese aren't treated as well as white males. Doctors also are highly influenced by the pharmaceutical reps who visit them often, bring them and their office staff lunch, etc.

The "difficult" patient often gets the best results. Ask questions. Don't worry if your doctor doesn't like you. You are in a business relationship with your doctor like dealing with an auto mechanic or a service contract. You should respect your doctor but not give him complete trust.

Find Dr. Right! Fire Dr. Wrong! Finding a doctor is like dating. Imagine that you are marrying the doctor and his office staff (in a sense you are). Are you comfortable with him and he with you? Check out your doctor on Google.

"18" and "23": 18 minutes is the average time a doctor will meet with you. 23 seconds is the average amount of time you can talk to a doctor before he interrupts you. Doctors are under a great deal of pressure to treat as many patients as possible in order to survive in the medical profession. As a patient you must prepare for your doctor visits. Imagine that a doctor's visit was costing you $1,000. Wouldn't you prepare well, have all your paperwork together, etc?

"What else could it be?" These are the magic words that can save you a lot of medical grief. Doctors often lock into one diagnosis. "What else could it be?" helps the doctor (and you) explore all the options of what may be affecting you. Don't be scared or hesitant to get a second opinion. Doctors are not offended and instead respect patients who do get a second opinion. Use the internet. And go beyond Google to blogs, chat sites, medical journal articles (you can learn to read them and get the essential info without having to look up every medical term---use the abstract and conclusion). But all blogs are not equal. Avoid the ones that are obviously industry sponsored or just flaky. But don't bring in internet printouts to your doctor. That is a turn-off for most doctors. Instead make bullet points to discuss with them.

Note: The insurance section was written before the recent health law reform.

If you're having problems with your insurance company, call the hospital. They are as interested as you in getting paid. Use patient advocates. Always explore generics and older drugs which are less expensive and have a proven track record.

Chapter 8 is a must read chapter. It describes how pharmaceutical and medical reps (the cute, attractive young people with sample cases you always see in doctors' offices) influence doctors to prescribe their new, expensive drugs rather than older proven drugs or generics. They spend $12 billion a year marketing to physicians (that's $30,000 per physician). They employ an army of 90,000 reps, one for every five office-based physicians. These salespeople have extensive databases that tell them exactly what drugs a particular doctor prescribes. Drug companies wouldn't do this if it didn't work. 94% of doctors acknowledged they had some type of relationship with pharmaceutical companies.

The second must-read is chapter 9 "Don't Let a Hospital Kill You." Denis Quaid was doing all he could for his twins being treated at Cedars Sinai. He was in the hospital room checking on everything when a nurse injected his twins with enough blood thinner to almost kill them. The pharmacy sent up the wrong meds which looked very similar to what the children should have received. The nurse didn't notice. The lesson to be learned from this is that even in a major, well-respected hospital with a celebrity patient, mistakes often happen.

Don't trust anyone in a hospital! If you don't see them wash their hands before examining you, ask them to wash their hands again. Check every med you're given. Ask for a daily medication list. If you usually get a yellow pill, why is this one blue. If you have to go to the Emergency Room, ask your doctor to call ahead. The ER doctor will be much more attentive to you if your doctor talks to him. Don't be quiet and suffer in silence. Speak up if you're not seen in a timely manner. Talk to the person in charge. Use the house phone and dial 0 to speak to the hospital administrator.

I agree with the quote by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This is "a book no household should be without."

Steve S. Ryan, PhD
Editor, Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients ( and
Author, Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure [...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2011
There is absolutely no doubt that we are in an era of consumer-driven health care. Now, more than any other time in history, consumers have access to vital medical information and are using it to actively engaging in their care. They're internet savvy, connected and asking questions. My question to the healthcare organizations of the world is; are you ready for this? Are your providers?
Author Elizabeth Cohen, is a medical correspondent for CNN. In her work, Cohen embraces the empowered patient by encouraging them to know more, ask more, and take more responsibility by playing an active role in their care. My conclusion... it's about time.
As a fellow advocate for patient empowerment, I was hooked in the first few paragraphs of this book. Then, after a few chapters I started to have some concerns (albeit fleeting) that Cohen's stories might be construed as doctor-bashing and fall on deaf ears in the medical community. She tells of misdiagnosis, unnecessary treatments and how patient persistence for more answers can save their lives. But the reality is that these are real stories and, unfortunately, they are happening every day.
There are three good reasons that health care professionals should read this book:
1. It reminds us that a medical diagnosis and the subsequent treatment can be wrong and that we are human and cannot let ego stand in the way of patient safety and positive outcomes.
2. It demonstrates that when providers listen to their customers and engage them as partners in their care, great things can happen. (Notice that I use the word `customer' and not patient. This is because using the word patient implies a more submissive relationship. A customer holds the power to vote with her feet and is savvy about where she brings her business and to whom she grants loyalty.)
3. It illustrates that today's consumers have information and are using it to actively engage in their care as equal partners rather than passive recipients. They are coming to appointments better prepared than ever and asking more questions. They are in chat rooms discussing symptoms, treatment and providers. They expect quality, service and respect for their opinions. And, if you don't believe this; buckle in because the next decade will be taking you on the ride of your professional life!
Raising the Bar on Service Excellence: The Health Care Leader's Guide to Putting Passion into Practice
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