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Q&A

March 17, 2010

Indianapolis philanthropist Lorene Burkhart sees the field of physician-patient interaction moving away from a simple follow-doc’s-orders approach to one where patients are more responsible and more questioning. Her new book, “Sick of Doctors? A Patient Prescription for Patient Empowerment,” was published this month by Indianapolis-based Curtis Publishing Co.

IBJ: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: What really made me sit down and start this process were some personal experiences with a doctor or two. Things that really upset me and I felt, this is not right. [One doctor misdiagnosed nerve pain as multiple sclerosis, which made her uninsurable later on. Another doctor performed unnecessary surgery on her.] It’s those kinds of experiences that made me say, “Where was the breakdown here?”

IBJ: You write that individuals should take matters into their own hands, doing homework before visiting a doctor, asking questions, etc. But when politicians have proposed having individuals take on more responsibility for their health care, it seems to scare most people. Do you think Americans on a broad scale are ready to accept that responsibility that you’re advocating?

A: What I’m advocating doesn’t have anything to do with the financial side. What I’m advocating has to do with communication. And also how we take care of ourselves.

IBJ: What’s the single biggest thing individual patients need to have to follow your advice?

A: Really, the pocketbook is the most effective way to get to people. If you ask questions about what this test costs, what would be the outcome if you didn’t do it, even if insurance is paying for it. Most people have not even thought about the fact that they’re using other people’s money. It just never occurs to them. They think it comes from God.

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