The Patient's Playbook
Washington Hospital Healthcare System and Leslie D. Michelson, the author of
The Patient’s Playbook, are working together to better inform the community about how to navigate
and advocate within a complex health care environment. This page is your
source for the important lessons Mr. Michelson shares in his book about
lifesaving strategies and decision-making tools that patients and family
members can start using now to become savvy health care consumers.
January Blog Post
Medical Quarterbacks: Why you need this essential healthcare helper and
how to recruit one
By Leslie D. Michelson
February 2017 Q&A
Should I bring my daughter to doctor visits? Plus: When to complete an
advance health care directive
I’ve been diagnosed with a serious condition and my daughter wants
to join me on my appointments. I don’t like leaning on people. Do
I really need to bring her?
Leslie Michelson: As long as you trust and respect your daughter and her intentions, I highly
recommend you bring her to physician visits. During this time, you’re
going to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed by the volume and intensity of
medical information coming at you. Having a helper at your side is crucial,
as she can take notes, ask thoughtful questions, and relay relevant medical details.
Beyond the emotional and logistical support your daughter can provide,
numerous studies show that patients are more likely to understand and
follow their physician’s advice and have
improved communication with their doctor when a companion participates.
And, in my experience, most physicians appreciate when you bring a companion
along. Having an extra set of eyes and ears ensures that your doctor’s
guidance and instructions are being heard. And your physician receives
a fuller picture about your condition and symptoms when your companion
speaks up about things you may forget to mention.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act your doctor may discuss your health information in front of others as
long as you do not object. It’s
up to you to let your doctor know if there are matters that are too private to openly discuss. But remember,
she’s there to help keep you on track. Understanding the full picture
of your illness will help her to provide the best of her thinking, and
it will strengthen your bond as mother and daughter.
When I was admitted to the hospital, I received information about an advance
health care directive. Is this something I can deal with later?
Leslie Michelson: This is an excellent question and one that I wish more people would consider
now, while they are healthy. People approach sickness in different ways.
Some prefer to accept the disease progression; others want to try the
standard treatment protocols, but if their disease advances beyond hope,
they would forgo risky or costly treatments. Then there are those who
take an aggressive, go-for-broke approach.
How you approach an illness is completely up to you. As long as you are
making informed decisions, there is no wrong approach. However, it’s
important that your caregivers and family members are clear about your
wishes ahead of time, so that they are never in a position of having to
make painful guesses about what’s best for you.
One way to make your wishes explicit is by completing an advance health
care directive, in which you provide basic instructions about your care
and name an agent who can make decisions for you. Keep in mind, you can
change your preferences at any time—as you get older, as your health
changes, and as your family evolves. But stating your current views now
will make it much easier to adjust them later. Washington Hospital provides
sample advance health care directive forms
Those diagnosed with terminal illnesses may want to complete a more detailed
Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, which spells
out preferences for medical interventions such as CPR, tube feeding, antibiotics,
do-not-resuscitate orders, and comfort. You can find California’s
POLST form, in several languages,
This can be a difficult conversation to have with loved ones, yet it’s
so important to decide what you want as early as possible. You can say:
I want everyone to understand what my wishes are. I know you may have different
views, and I’m happy to talk about them now. But please understand
that it will make it much easier for me to go through this if I know that
you understand what my goals are, and that you will respect them.
Finally, for any families facing end-of-life issues, it can sometimes be
comforting to have a trusted primary care physician weigh in with guidance.
They’ve been down this road before and often will bring clarity
to a difficult situation.
Leslie D. Michelson is the author of The Patient’s Playbook
and host of The No-Mistake Zone™ podcast. He is a highly sought-after expert who has spent the last
thirty years guiding thousands of people through our complex healthcare system.
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