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The Unfair Challenges for the Patients

Part 3 of The Battle for Justice: 'Sickcare' vs. 'Health-Owners' Series.


The blog series reflects on one patient’s experience and unravels the complex and mind-boggling factors surrounding American patients. I aim to shed light on the extent of US healthcare troubles, explore the reasons behind the current state, and, ultimately, challenge you to rethink healthcare and consider doing things differently. 


Part 3, a shorter installment, was initially part of Part 2, focusing on healthcare system issues (primarily for providers). I've separated this section (the patients’ side) for this week, making this blog now a 6-part series.


Haven’t read previous parts of the series? Check out Part 1 and Part 2!


Inherent Power Difference with the Providers


Naturally, the first challenge for patients is the inherent power difference with their providers. Besides, doctors and other providers are often very busy, and some may have a paternalistic attitude. Despite many years of training, most providers haven’t learned how to talk to their patients in an engaging way. Unfortunately, preparing for an appointment and securing a meaningful interaction with their doctors has essentially become the patient's responsibility. (Sidenote: I’ve created a free comprehensive resource on this topic, which will be available next week!)

 

Additionally, as discussed earlier, the shortened appointment time means patients might waste time and money unless they ensure they can express their concerns adequately and understand how to communicate with their doctors.


An image of complex medical business enterprise

There is another serious problem related to this. Sometimes, providers do not believe the patient’s complaint when they cannot detect or explain the patient’s symptoms with their knowledge or the test results. This is particularly a devastating problem among many patients with complex chronic conditions, like Jack. 



A patient dismissed by a doctor

Unfortunately, this problem occurs even when the patients become knowledgeable about their conditions and are prepared for the appointment. I plan to address specific strategies for this situation in a later blog, but this blog series will discuss various big-picture issues that affect almost everyone.


Confusing and Inconsistent Documents


At the same time, medical offices have a tendency to bombard their patients with all kinds of confusing instructions, ‘patient education’ material, and regulatory required documents. To make matters worse, each institution can also create its own policies and procedures that are inconsistent with other institutions, which doesn’t help their patients!


An image of a doctor working on admin paperwork until night

As an RN patient advocate, I’ve reviewed many patient documents for clients and am often astonished by their thoughtlessness and inconsistency with other documents.


So, if patients are confused by these documents, it’s NOT their fault


Information and Technology Overload


Now, outside of the medical offices, we also live in an information overload society. We’re surrounded by an avalanche of health information and advertisements that tell us what to do and what not to do every day. Some information is good, some are inaccurate, and some are even dangerous

 

To make the situation even more complicated, we’ve recently seen a rapid deployment of AI and automation in our society, including healthcare.


This is concerning because we clearly haven't tested the implications of those algorithms in a complex, fragmented, and high-risk system like healthcare.



Technology and AI taking over healthcare

 

And guess what? It’s always the patient who gets hurt or at least inconvenienced by the careless implementation of new technology! A minor example is the healthcare institution's text-based patient communication system. An appointment reminder is useful, but if you need to speak to a live professional, the line may reach a dead end and waste more time. 


Human Tendency – Failing to Prepare for Negative Events


As you see, everyone who uses healthcare these days encounters so many potential issues. Hence, it’s absolutely normal for patients to feel confused and powerless. But the problem is that when we’re confused, we cannot take the proper action…

 

In addition, humans already have the tendency to underestimate the possibility of negative events and simply “hope for the best.” This is also called ‘Optimism Bias,’ which can prevent us from taking the right action in time.  



Optimism bias

But we must remember that the combination of these factors can cause a minor treatable illness to become serious, and then fatal!

 

Stay tuned for Part 4, coming next Wednesday, when I will reveal a somewhat provocative explanation of what was discussed in Parts 1 - 3!



Here are some questions for reflection until next time.


  1. How has the inherent power difference with healthcare providers impacted your own healthcare experiences? Can you share any specific challenges you've faced in communicating with your healthcare team?

  2. Reflect on your encounters with confusing and inconsistent healthcare documents. Have you ever felt overwhelmed or confused by the information provided by medical offices? How do you think this impacts patient empowerment?

  3. Consider the information and technology overload discussed in the blog. How do you navigate the abundance of health information available to you? Have you encountered any challenges or misinformation in your healthcare decision-making process?

  4. In the context of the human tendency to underestimate negative events (Optimism Bias), how do you balance optimism with the need for preparedness in managing your health? Share any personal experiences where optimism may have influenced your healthcare decisions.

  5. Given the rapid deployment of AI in healthcare, how do you feel about the potential implications of algorithms in a complex and high-risk system? Are there concerns or areas where you believe caution is crucial?


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About Kayoko Corbet, RN, BCPA


Hi, I’m Ky! I assist people in navigating the healthcare maze and complexities to get the care they need and deserve with full benefit. I also help people better manage their health to have a better future.


Connect with me on LinkedIn

2 Comments


A major challenge Ky. People are in a tough spot...what is the answer? In my opinion, we need to educate people to be prepared, ask questions, and not be afraid to leave a doctor if they are not getting what they need from them. They are in place, understand you, and help managed care health care. Many people put up with mediocrity as they don't think they have a choice.


The problem is this is how the system is set up.....doctors don't have enough time to listen to someone for 20 minutes. They have a waiting list of people who get upset if they have to wait. You can't have it both ways......


We, as a healthcare system, need to…

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Thank you for your comments, Anne. Yes! People are indeed in a tough spot. I might even say that the system is set up to DISEMPOWER people.


The healthcare industry actually doesn’t want to help people enjoy good healthcare. Because they make more money if more people get sick/complications and need expensive treatments! (Stay tuned to hear more about this next week. ;)


Anyway, you’re absolutely right- education and preparation are the key. I’m hoping this series will make a compelling case (even if a bit radical ;) for people to start fighting against the system!


we the people don’t have any choice but to get knowledge and fight!

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