"How Doctors Think," by Jerome Groopman, M.D., is surprisingly readable. I would describe the book as a "call to confidence" for laypeople, otherwise known as "patients." It explores the shadowy realms of cognition, wherein most medical mistakes occur. A misdiagnosis usually occurs because of cognitive, not technical, errors, regardless of the good intentions of the physician. Because of the training methods, unconscious stereotypes, and personal history of any given doctor treating any given patient, certain cognitive patterns will come into play that may lead to a misdiagnosis if the patient lacks the confidence to ask helpful questions of his or her doctor. The doctor NEEDS this level of action from his or her patient in order to remain open to all possibilities, and to provide the best care that they are able. Groopman's book openly and honestly lays out where mistakes occur using real life examples of miraculous catches and traumatic misdiagnoses, and explains clearly what specific questions a patient should feel confident in asking his/her doctor.
My folks sent me this book in the wake of our teenage son experiencing chronic daily headaches and migraines, an episode that kept him out of school for five weeks and had us going from one expert to another for answers -- and a cure.
What I learned from Dr. Groopman is essentially what I already knew -- that the health insurance system causes doctors to be in too big a hurry, that they make mistakes in diagnosis, that the patient (or his/her family) must be dogged in the pursuit of answers. But (and this is a big but) what this Harvard Medical School doctor gave me was the confidence that I lacked as a patient advocate. He advises the reader to never accept a doctor's dismissive statement, "We have seen this before." He urges patients to challenge the doctor with such questions as, ?Is there anything that doesn?t fit your diagnosis?? and ?Is it possible I have more than one problem??
My son still gets his headaches, but thanks to this book, we are armed with new confidence to continue the search for answers.
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