Roni Zeiger, M.D., Product Manager, Google asks “Is There A Doctor in the Family?”
‘When I help my loved ones navigate an illness or get up to date with screening tests, I wonder how those who don’t have a doctor in the family manage their health.”
With great difficulty I imagine.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with a potentially serious illness which required surgery. I was confident that I’d be able to navigate the healthcare system without too many problems since I’d worked as a part of it for years.
Well, let me tell you, this little grasshopper had much to learn.
1. If you ever hope to see the doctor, be nice to the front-desk schedulers and billers. This is, of course, easy if they treat you with kindness and professionalism. Along my journey I met a few of these folks who were positively wonderful. Unfortunately I also encountered a few who were bitter, miserable, and out to make as many converts to the dark side as possible. Here’s what I learned; don’t let them drain away your energy, you have better uses for it.
2. Expect to be overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with information, emotion, appointments, schedules, tests, conflicting opinions, decisions that have to be made today, and decisions that loom just over the horizon.
3. Expect to see lots of different healthcare providers. Physicians, nurses, technicians, therapists, and more.
4. Expect to get lots of bills. Within a few months I had received treatment (and bills) from a dozen different doctors. For those of you familiar with billing, that’s professional, not technical. Technical billing piles on a whole additional stack of mail with catchy phrases like:
- This is not a bill (it just looks like a bill);
- This is a bill – you owe this amount;
- Contact your insurance company to find out why they haven’t paid this bill; and my favorite,
- Your insurance company hasn’t paid and this bill is now past due. If you don’t pay $847,836.57 within the next 28 seconds we will be forced to turn you over to collection!
Healthcare is a very scary place to visit, and eventually, like it or not, most of us get invited for a sleep-over.
All of this is fertile soil for healthcare advocacy. Companies and individuals with varying degrees of skill and professional ethics are advertising themselves as advocates. Enter… Google? Not perhaps a role we might expect for a giant web search company, but Roni Zeiger, M.D., Product Manager for Google writes:
Patients need to see their doctors to get the right medical care. But better-informed patients recover faster, manage chronic illnesses better and may even avoid some illnesses altogether. And patients should feel in control of their situation.
We have been talking to many medical experts to understand what the best guidelines are, and how we can determine which ones apply in different circumstances. If such guidelines were more available to patients, they might be able to, by inputting information such as age, gender or medications, learn about recommended screening tests and other preventive measures, or about harmful drug interactions. (The problem of drug interactions is reason enough to work on this: in the U.S. alone, it is estimated that over 770,000 people are injured or die each year in hospitals from adverse drug events. Many of these medical errors could be prevented if patients or doctors checked for drug interactions.)
As we work on this project, we are of course paying very close attention to privacy. If such a tool were available, you should be able to enter as much or as little information as you want — and it’s important that you be allowed to access this kind of information without entering your name, insurance number or other personal information. We also think that if you want to save this information, you should have that choice so you can access it later or share it with your doctor.
Read the full text of Dr. Zeiger’s article: