Bring a Health Advocate With You When Using Health Care

Do this as much as you can; especially for life changing health care. After surviving cancer, this is my number one piece of advice to anyone. It will save your life as it did mine. And I believe this one approach would drastically improve our perception of the quality of our health system. (No, not more money) And this isn’t just my advice, Consumer Reports on Health agrees to (April 2015 issue page 2). CRoH reports that it is “… one of the keys to a safe and comfortable experience.” What is a health advocate? Ideally this person is a good listener and “… has the confidence to raise concerns and the ability to make firm but polite requests.” Since they are not the patient, they may be less affected by emotions that affect our ability to process the information we are told.

Also, make an attempt at asking your doctor and clinic to adopt a patient portal to open up access to your doctors notes., an international movement, has a canned email letter to send them: is referenced by the Canadian Medical Association Journal:


11% of People Picking Up Hospital Based Infections Die

Staying out of the hospital is more important today than ever before. Hospitals are breeding grounds for antibiotic resistant infections; themselves a product of humanity’s overly enthusiastic use of antibiotics. Consumer Reports on Health reports in its February 2015 issue (page 9) that 650,000 patients develop an infection from visiting a hospital. Of that number, 75,000 die as a result. “That’s more than 12 times the number of Ebola deaths worldwide as of December 2014.”

May 11, 2016 Update:

“There are 220,000 cases of hospital-associated infections each year in Canada resulting in 8,000 deaths.” UCalgary Alumni Magazine Spring | Summer 2016, page 9.

The problem is worse in Canada. Adjusted for population, Canada has 3.09 times the number of infections than the USA. Deaths resulting from the infections is approximately the same.

Jan 29, 2018 Update:

“WHO’s first release of surveillance data on antibiotic resistance reveals high levels of resistance to a number of serious bacterial infections in both high- and low-income countries.”



Death from Health Related Administrative Errors is 10x Rate of Automobile Accidents

Administrative errors made when managing your health caused 10 times the death from car crashes in the US at 440K deaths per year. In fact, it’s the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA after heart disease and cancer (see Consumer Reports May 4, 2016). As a cancer graduate, this is near and dear to my heart.

I have personally experienced administrative errors in Canada and they are alive and well. In my particular circumstance, they had forgotten to tell me that I had been diagnosed with cancer.  For my surgery, I circled the part being operated on with a marker and got a “that’s a very good idea” from the attendant. When my son was in one of the top hospitals in Canada, we corrected at least 3 administrative errors since there were lag times between when the doctor entered notes into the computer system and when the nurse visited.

In the USA, Consumer Reports is asking Americans to send a letter to their representative in support of a National Patient Safety Board (similar to the National Transportation Safety Board & the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Follow link here to find a suggested letter:

What can you do as a patient?

Try to bring to all your appointments a second pair of eyes and both of you take good notes, ask lots of questions and do your research. For the hospital, this person will be your advocate since there will be a lot of activity. If you don’t have such a person, you might want to think about hiring a nurse to help you out.  More important than a good doctor (a nice to have) is an administratively efficient medical team since even with a good doctor a small mistake by anyone on the team could kill you. Remember, they are human too and not infallible.

Ensure to follow-up with your doctor on all test results.  Never accept “we’ll contact you if there is anything to discuss once we get the results back.” That means getting the exact test results paperwork from a patient portal or a photocopy from your doctor (which means a follow-up visit). Consumer Reports on Health reported in their March 2018 issue “Test information sometimes slips through the cracks. Some offices receive tests results on paper, which can get lost, misfiled, or overlooked. And even electronic results may not always be followed up on appropriately. … [Test results themselves] can be hard to read or interpret correctly – even for healthcare professionals at times. … The bottom line: You should know and understand your results, and never take anything for granted.” Once you have those test results in your hands, try to make sense of what they say by doing your own research. It can generate good questions for discussion with your doctor.

Finally, make an attempt at asking your doctor and clinic to adopt a patient portal to open up access to your doctors notes., an international movement, has a canned email letter to send them: is referenced by the Canadian Medical Association Journal: