‘Every Patient Tells a Story’

While Jeff Morganteen has gone off to France to get his carte vitale, I can tell you that after I read T.R. Reid’s efficiently informative book I grabbed “Every Patient Tells a Story,” by Connecticut physician Dr. Lisa Sanders. Sanders does not dive into the health care debate. Instead, she details the topic she consults for on the popular Fox show House; diagnosing disease.

Sanders highlights first what we all know, that patients and doctors like the idea of black and white tests that tell you exactly what’s wrong. And then she spends the rest of the book breaking that down and telling us something that might be hard to hear; that many times a diagnosis is really a doctors best guess after he or she takes into account all of the tests and the results of seemingly-shamanistic rituals like palpating your stomach or listening to your heart. That being a good doctor is sometimes really low tech.  In his books, Atul Gawande tell us the same thing.

This idea reminded Jeff and I about what Reid’s American doctor wanted to do for his sore shoulder; he wanted to replace it entirely with a new one. We even imagined the sound effects and graphics that could go with it, like an Extreme Makeover show. Almost no other doctor in any other country wanted to do that, and ultimately Reid did not. That highlights one of the problems with health insurance as it exists here that the smart folks at Planet Money got into when they talked about health insurance. If it’s fancy, and i exists, we probably want it. Usually we get it, because someone else pays for it. What Sanders says is that these things probably aren’t always necessary.

Monica Potts