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From the Inside Looking Out

By | Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Family man | No Comments

At the #PCORI2017 Annual Meeting, Alan Alda showed us a simple mirror improv exercise (remember Groucho and Chico Marx in Duck Soup?). Alan first showed us him mirroring an audience member, then the audience member mirroring him, and finally, them mirroring each other at the same time. It was an exercise in empathy.  Afterwards, someone at my table said,

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.

I first heard these words many years ago from a peer support professional describing the experience of depression and addiction. I understand this better now that I’m a person with a chronic illness. I work hard to explain what’s inside to my family and other members of my health team.  Often I don’t know or I don’t have words. Mindful meditation helps tremendously – deciding to become friends with what ails me. It’s all me and I love me. I’m not sure if it helps me explain, but it helps me know myself. And for sure, it increases my empathy when I’m on the outside looking in. Thanks, Alan, for reminding us.

See also other posts about Improv and

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Learning from What Doesn’t Work

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Reauthorize PCORI. We Need It!

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient | 2 Comments

I care about what works for people on their health journey. How do lay people make choices for themselves in partnership with their clinician partners? So much affects our health choices, not just our medical decisions, but our behavior, our communities, the environment and the systems we use to survive and live well. I’m very interested in research, but I’m also a skeptic: How does this study help me?  How does it help my family? How does it help my clinician partners? How does it help the people who support and care for us? We are the people at the center of care. Just because we found out that something might work in a lab, does that mean will it work for us? Read More

Health Goals to Clinical Decisions (CDS)

By | Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Researcher | 2 Comments

It’s hard to reach personal health goals or solve medical problems without a plan.  Plans require decisions. Never-ending decisions (choices) in the health journey. Clinicians, researchers, and insurance companies study and use Clinical Decision Support (CDS) to help with the decision-making process. It’s a shortcut for using research (evidence) in the decision-making. Some talk about patient-centered decision support (see a definition at the bottom of this post). They’re trying to figure out how to help people to make decisions in two minutes of ten-minute visits. Yet, few patients or caregivers I’ve met ever talk about CDS.  So how can people understand the value and limitations of CDS? Read More

Learning What Works

Learning What Works

By | Caregiver, ePatient, Researcher | One Comment

One of my passions in life is Learning What Works for people on their health journey. As we travel, we make choices – endless choices.  Should I do A rather than B? Eat the brownie or don’t eat the brownie? Take a walk or don’t? Go to the doctor or wait until I feel worse? Fill the prescription the doctor wrote or don’t? Have surgery or wait and see? Stay home with my dad with dementia or arrange for home care? Or we make no decision at all (a decision in itself). Sometimes people search for help in making these choices. Help from professionals on their care team, from their care partner, from Dr. Google, from their mates or social network.

Learning what works is an experiment.

A person tries something – it worked or it didn’t – for them. To know it worked means that the person has an idea of what they are trying to accomplish (See my post on personal health goals). And that they think there’s a relationship between what they tried and what they accomplished (or didn’t). I have a fever, took an aspirin, and the fever dropped. I have heartburn, stopped eating chocolate, and now less heartburn. My MS symptoms are getting worse. I reduce manageable stress. My symptoms subside. What’s important in all this is that I know what I want, I try something, and I feel better or accomplish what I wanted (or didn’t). Some people, like me, have a written care plan and keep track with lists and spreadsheets. (See my post on planning personal care)  Most don’t. Read More

E-Patients, experts with lived experience

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient, Informaticist | No Comments

This week I connected a patient with expertise in billing with a patient at the tail end of chemo struggling with huge unexpected bills. I introduced a cancer survivor with web design skills to a patient advocate setting up a new blog.

I’m struck by the breadth and depth of professional skills I encounter as I explore e-patient communities. (e-patient: empowered, engaged, enabled, equipped).  e-Patients have lived experience. I encountered the concept of lived experience first while working in the mental health world. According to the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia (MHCSA) a lived experience worker is “a person who is employed in a role that requires them to identify as being, or having been a mental health consumer or carer.” Read More

Resist, Fund Me, Change, Join, Decide, Click, Lead

By | Advocate, ePatient, Informaticist, Leader, Researcher | 3 Comments

 

The pervasive drumbeat of Calls for Action in healthcare overwhelms me, excite me, bewilder me. I’m wired for action. I have to listen and consider or shut it out. I have no middle ground. There’s a limited amount of gas in my tank. I feel protective of my retirement dollars. And I still need to take out the garbage and do the laundry. Do I want to respond? Am I able to respond? What am I really responding to? How much is enough? Does it align with my mission? Will it be fun? Read More

Should I or Shouldn’t I? Managing Uncertainty

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, ePatient, Informaticist, Leader, Researcher | No Comments

Have you ever remodeled your kitchen? So many decisions: Cabinet style, drawers, finish, hardware, not to mention the floor and appliances. There’s you, your partner, a contractor, a cabinet person, a floor person, the appliance merchant. Decision after decision – should we or shouldn’t we? And nobody’s gonna die or get injured – hopefully.  All while trying to keep living, cooking, dishes, lunches. My wife and I were so stressed.  Kitchen decisions pale next to health decisions, especially medical decisions. It’s not like, “do I prefer this drawer pull to that drawer pull?” “Would I rather have wood or tile floors?” There is so much more uncertainty in health care.

Why me, why now? Who says? How sure are they? What if I do? What if I don’t? Will I still be able to ….? Who pays? What will they think? How do I get there? What aren’t they telling me? Are they listening to me when I say I can’t or I won’t? I just can’t think right now! Oh, this sure sucks! Read More

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient, Family man, Leader, Musician, Researcher | 2 Comments

Decisions, decisions, decisions. We face endless numbers of decisions during our health journeys. From the mundane, should I fast to lose weight? To the tedious, what statin should I take? To the heartbreak, should we do everything possible? Yesterday, after playing music, someone told us that he fasted to lose 20 pounds. How many weight loss discussions have we had in an endless number of settings. I can remember one time discussing it with my Primary Care doctor – no decision, no choice of action – just an observation that my weight had been steadily increasing over the years. My cholesterol is high, and my Dad died young of a heart attack (not from high cholesterol). I’ve taken six different statins. My Primary Care doc thinks the evidence is strong for me to take statins. We regularly change brand based on effects on my liver enzymes, cost, and insurance coverage.  A friend’s elder mother had major heart surgery. The cardiac surgeon reported success, she’s doing great – the blockage was successfully removed. She’s still in a coma, intubated. She’s never had end-of-life conversations, no advanced directives. Her husband will want to do everything possible. No decisions lead to a decision. Read More

Health, Wellness, and Medical Decision Support, Wherever and with Whomever

By | Advocate, Caregiver, ePatient, Researcher | 3 Comments

When diagnosed wcdsith multiple sclerosis, I did little research. Here I was, a card carrying member of the research industrial complex heavily involved with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). I just couldn’t bring myself to Google MS.  I relied on my wife to do the research and inform me. I told my neurologist I wanted to get worse as slowly as possible and didn’t want to take anything that messed with my pathological optimism. Then I relied on him to make medical decisions for me.  No clinical decision aids. Simultaneously, friends sent me books and links about diet, lifestyle, over-the-counter supplements to help me with my MS. Thanks, I guess. Not that receptive.  Without looking up one study, I tried non-medical professionals – massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture. These I still use almost a decade later. I brought whatever I heard about or tried to my neurologist, and we discussed it. He told me that he knew about drugs and medical therapeutics, but that everything worked for someone. Some things he knew about and some he didn’t. He liked hearing what worked for me. He told me what he had heard from other patients.

When my mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, she relied on me to do the research. Well, really, she asked me questions, so I had to do the research. In fact, she didn’t make any decisions based on the evidence I uncovered. “I’ve had a good life. No surgery, no chemo, no radiation. I want to stay home.” Read More

An Experiment of One

By | Advocate, Caregiver, Clinician, Consumer, ePatient, Leader, Researcher | No Comments

I was discharged after bypass surgery with 26 pages of instructions. I was just concerned about getting home.

My dad lives alone on the other coast. He takes 11 medications from 4 different providers. At least one gives him a blood thinner. What do I do if he bleeds?

I can get my acupuncturist and massage therapist to talk to each other, but not my doctor. They’re all helping me with my neuropathy pain.

My doctor tells me that if I get this surgery I’ll have a 10% chance of living longer and 1% chance of serious complications. What does that mean for me?

The doctor told my mom that she can’t drive anymore.  How will she get her groceries, her meds, to her doctor appointments?

Who will feed my cat if I have to go to the hospital?

I live 4 miles up a dirt road. Will I be able to stay in my house? 

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It’s complicated to manage health and wellness. Planning and living care is daunting. The journey occurs inside and outside of the medical space. Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes with our care partners and health team. Always within our communities. The journey is our life – one foot in  front of the other, with expected and unexpected, desired and undesired forks in the road. We can wing it or look for a map. We have evidence of what works – sort of and sometimes. The evidence is about specific routes for groups of people. You and I may be on an unusual route. You and I are not groups of people, we are one person in many groups.  Once a person decides or needs to feel better, a roadmap helps. A roadmap plus stopping periodically to check if you’re still heading to your destination. Read More