Bestselling author and oncologist Groopman (How Doctors Think, 2008, etc.) and eminent endocrinologist Hartzband collaborate to help readers rethink their health-care choices.
Wading through medical information can be daunting, as both the authors are well aware. They explore the roots of how individuals make medical decisions through research and confidential interviews with patients. The authors investigate individuals facing medical decisions and detail the powerful internal and external forces, such as family background or personality, TV ads or Internet information, that can affect those choices. They begin with the story of Susan Powell, who was prescribed synthetic statins to manage her cholesterol. Against her doctor’s advice, she declined the medication for a number of reasons, including familiarity with a woman suffering side effects from the medicine and because of her father's refusal to treat his high cholesterol. The authors categorize Powell as a “doubter,” a skeptic of non-natural medical solutions. Other personality types include “believers,” patients who favor more aggressive treatment. The authors are quick to point out how technology is also changing medical decision-making. “Surveys show that more than 60 percent of people search the Web for medical information, and that number is increasing all the time,” they write. Learning to properly comprehend the statistics, risks and benefits readily available on the Internet, referred to here as “health literacy,” can help readers make healthier choices now to create better outcomes for the future. For readers who are not already proactive with their health care.