Healthcare Hurdles

March 31, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

You may be like I was. Too trusting.

In 2004, I found a golf-ball sized lump under the skin on my torso — just to the right of where my stomach is.

It really scared me …. so off I went to my family doctor who seemed perplexed, too. He sent me to a surgeon who removed that lump. It was no more of a hassle than having a tooth pulled, or getting stitches in your leg. Eight stitches later, home I went.

When I heard two weeks later that I had been diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and deadly form of lymphoma, I was completely blown away. Over the course of the next three months, I went from my very trusting, very reliant, relationship with my doctors, to my complete lack of distrust for the American healthcare system. Please note, that doesn’t say I distrust all the people who are part of it. No — it means that what I learned was that the system is set up to fail patients and it fails them every day.

It turns out that my diagnosis with a fatal form of lymphoma was, instead, a misdiagnosis. I had no cancer. Whatever I did have was gone — and it has never recurred. I have never had treatment. I have never seen another lump.

I went from being told I would be dead within months, to finding out I was as healthy as any other mid-50s age woman who has only been moderately “good” about preventive and healthy habits throughout her lifetime.

The hurdles to getting the right answers, the right treatment, and a longer, healthier life are many. Misdiagnosis is just one of them. Lack of diagnosis, bad treatment recommendations, errors in test result reporting, drug errors, patient safety including surgical errors, and of course, problems with insurance reimbursements or any other payment problems are all hurdles to getting good care.

My husband will tell you I have gone from being a Healthcare Pollyanna to the development of what we call my “cynical crust.”

As it turns out, however, that cynical crust serves me well. It makes me keep asking questions — always a good thing — and it helps me develop advice for those of you who read my blogs, columns, etc.

There will be times we have to trust — but we need to trust wisely. If we develop a sense of trust knowing what the possible problems are, then we know when it’s time to begin questioning our care.

We may not have those many years of medical school behind us, but we patients know our bodies better than anyone else does. That knowledge, combined with intuition and common sense, will help us overcome those healthcare hurdles that might otherwise prevent us from getting the care we need.

Battling the System to Improve Your Care

March 21, 2008 by  
Filed under HEALTHCARE

Greetings readers — and thanks for stopping by.

Being a part of Hart’s Battling for Health Series is an exciting opportunity for me to HELP and LEARN from all of you.

By way of introduction — I call myself Every Patient’s Advocate. I’ve been battling the system for my own care, and advising others how to navigate it themselves, for more than three years, ever since suffering a heinous misdiagnosis myself.

I’ll be bringing you commentary on health-related news across North America, tips and advice on navigating healthcare, and for those who are state-side, some consumerism and thoughts about the upcoming presidential elections as they relate to how we access, and pay for, care.

Please feel free to shoot me an email ( ) at any time — I’m here to help! I look forward to getting to know some of you through comments and questions over time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Shortage of doctors in Ireland contributed to cancer misdiagnosis

December 3, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

Imagine this: You go in to your doctor’s office for a cancer screening and go home safe in the knowledge that you are disease-free. Later, you get a call from stating that you were given incorrect information. That’s what happened to several women in Ireland in a scandal that’s rocking the country.

Last month, seven women who were previously given the “all clear” from a breast cancer screening performed at Portaloise Hospital were told that they may have been misdiagnosed. The women were identified after concerns over how to read mammograms prompted a review of 3,000 cases.

From the Irish Times:

Health Services Executive chief executive Brendan Drumm said yesterday that more than 40 women had been called back for detailed review, and, because 19 of those have to be finalised, the figure of seven misdiagnosed patients “could change”.

The breast cancer diagnosis scare prompted other Irish hospitals to re-examine their cases. As a result, Cork University hospital identified fifteen more individuals who may also have been misdiagnosed based on samples showing malignant characteristics.

In a horrifying turn of events, one of the women who was misdiagnosed had her surgery post-poned by due to an overbooked hospital schedule:

From The Independent:

A woman diagnosed with breast cancer after being given the all-clear has had life-saving surgery cancelled because there was no bed available.

In a further, shocking insult to those hit by the breast cancer test scandal, the woman earlier this week had her mastectomy cancelled at 6pm the night before it was due to take place.

The woman, in her 50s, told the Irish Independent she now has to wait a further five days for the operation to be rescheduled at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and that she is still not guaranteed a bed even then.

The disturbing revelation highlighted the suffering endured by hundreds of women who have been left completely in the dark over whether or not they have breast cancer.

It came amid further damaging revelations which showed the level of chaos engulfing our cancer-care services.

What’s the deal with Ireland? According to a leading consultant pathologist, it’s the shortage of trained physicians and resources in the country. From the Sunday Business Post:

Gerard Boran, the dean of the faculty of pathology at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said that adequate resources had not been made available to staff pathology laboratories, which are at the centre of the current breast cancer crisis over misdiagnoses.

The Hanly Report on medical staffing, which was published in 2003, noted a shortage in the number of pathologists working in Ireland. The report revealed that Ireland had 159 permanent consultant pathologists in the public hospital sector, while 280 were needed to implement the European working time directive and meet the recommendations of the Royal College of Pathologists in Britain, to ensure best practice and patient safety.

Looks like Ireland’s got some work ahead of them if they want to provide their citizens with accurate diagnoses and proper treatment.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.