Navigating the health care system in this country is all too often a frustrating experience. The insurance-dominated system is rich in tools to improve our lives while at the same time a mind-numbing labyrinth of rules, regulations and conflicting roles that leave patients and families feeling helpless and hopeless.
As patients, we need effective tools and training to better advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. It’s up to us to advocate for our health care journey and also take charge of our own health through our actions.
Recently, I interviewed my friend Lisa Bradshaw, a cancer survivor, author, television host, nonprofit founder and entrepreneur about the training program she recently launched to help people in crisis or dealing with chronic illnesses more effectively navigate the system.
She developed the Take Good Care app and launched an educational course teaching skills for taking charge of your health and better managing serious medical situations.
Bradshaw knows her stuff. She not only navigated her journey through cancer (she’s been cancer-free for 20-plus years), and later lost her husband Wesley after a double lung transplant. In the process, she learned valuable lessons more effectively navigating the seemingly inscrutable system.
At the core of her approach is building a team of trusted professionals who are devoted to the best possible outcome and not just taking one doctor’s opinion and recommended course of action at face value.
She used that knowledge to help her parents deal with subsequent medical issues and that ultimately prompted her to develop the Take Good Care app to make these lessons available to others.
She’s built what appears to be a robust course that helps a person understand and better deal with medical challenges. She’s also in the process of building online communities for people to share experiences, resources and suggestions.
Modules in her course address a spectrum of concepts from getting the most value out of a primary care physician appointment to dealing with critical care situations, estate planning issues and hospice. The course includes video interviews with providers and patients.
In the era of electronic medical records and insurance-dominated medicine, routine doctor visits are becoming less about building relationships with your physician and more about talking about details and specific procedures. It can feel very perfunctory. I’m guessing this is just as frustrating for physicians and nurses who are required to collect and enter data rather than get to know their patients and build relationships.
For the course, she interviewed innovative and patient-centric providers, such as retired oncologist Dr. Dave Notter, who speaks about the need for relationship-building and empathy as much as medical tools. Notter is a passionate advocate for the power of relationship building. As part of the course, she interviews other top medical professionals, including Dr. Blaire Burman, Chief of Hepatology at Virginia Mason Medical Center.
What impressed me in talking with Bradshaw was her desire to coach and mentor other people to thoughtfully and knowledgeably become better advocates for their own health as well as getting a team of providers who meet their needs.
Bradshaw has worked to keep the cost affordable and at around $250, it seems pretty affordable given the quality of the advice and given how expensive medical care is in this country. “For the price of a doctor visit, they get a set of skills that’ll see them through their lifetime of healthcare,” Bradshaw told me. The app, which provides access to a growing community of patients and caregivers, can be had for the cost of a fancy cup of coffee once a month.
There is a lot of learned helplessness and hopelessness in dealing with medical professionals these days. Taking charge of our own journey and that of our loved ones is a positive step toward empowerment. Bradshaw’s app and course are positive steps in the right direction. Her heart’s in the right place and she tells me this new endeavor is going to be her primary focus going forward.
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