Tavares, in his debut, presents a simple but intriguing idea to help doctors achieve better treatment results: Keep patients informed.
The author, a Brazilian-born physician who practices in Manitoba, Canada, aspires to join other medical practitioners who have observed flaws in our health care institutions and offered common-sense solutions. Although the book isn’t in the same league as Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto (2009), its idea for reducing patient suffering and saving lives has merit: Health care providers should make every effort to ensure that patients (and patients’ family members) are thoroughly informed about the medical treatments they receive. Well-informed patients, the author asserts, may be the single most important factor in the success of any treatment. He writes that medical errors claimed more than 10,000 lives in Canada in 2012, and he estimates that 0.1 percent of deaths per year could be avoided if health care institutions recognized patients, not doctors, as the “pilots” in charge. Tavares extends the aviation idea to include family members and friends as “copilots,” medical specialists as “flight controllers,” and emergency room physicians and family doctors as “flight mechanics.” Although the author is obviously well-attuned to the value of empathy in treating patients, he doesn’t address the business implications of his proposal for hospitals and health clinics. In the hands of a more experienced writer and researcher, the aviation metaphor might have provided the basis for a serious full-length work. Instead, this very personal, idiosyncratic book overuses bullet points, verbatim email exchanges, conference notes, legal disclaimers and exclamation points. Fortunately, it provides a clickable link to a video on a website maintained by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, which conveys this book’s message more clearly.
A medical manifesto that lacks muscle.