Here’s How to Avoid Making a Deadly Healthcare Mistake


At Keen Wealth Advisors, we spend a lot of time helping you build financial security. Yet all that financial security could become secondary when you feel a lump in the breast, the car behind you on the freeway doesn’t stop in time, or you slip on the ice in the winter and your whole world becomes directed to your immediate health care needs. If that happens, your focus turns to trying to get the best medical care possible.

iTunes Between Now and SuccessIn today’s episode, we discuss how to get the best medical care possible and share simple things you can do to make better healthcare choices. Our guest is Leslie Michelson. For several decades, Leslie has been at the forefront of helping people get the best healthcare possible.

Leslie is the author of The Patient’s Playbook and host of The No-Mistake Zone Podcast. I highly recommend both.

I think you’ll appreciate this show as we touch on the importance of having an engaged primary care physician, how to ensure you are on top of the right medications and treatment options, and how to rally a team of physicians so that you have the best folks working together for you when the situation arises.

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Insights From Today’s Podcast

1. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.

We lose 400,000 people a year to preventable medical errors, said Leslie. It’s the third leading cause of death behind cancer and heart disease, and few people realize that.

Leslie shared a story about a wicked smart hedge fund manager in New York. He had back pain that was bothering him for about six months. It was gradually getting better but he was impatient and he had a surgeon who said, “Just let me operate and it will accelerate getting this thing all better.”

It turned out that the cause of his back pain was not something that could be remotely fixed surgically. It was totally unrelated. The surgery actually sent him backwards, put him in much greater pain and he has now struggled for four or five years with virtually unbearable pain.

This is a guy who has been very successful in business by making good decisions. Yet when it related to his medical situation, he made a bad decision. Leslie said he could have improved his outcome by doing some basic looking around for a second or third opinion, and finding the best doctors to make an informed decision.

2. The most important member of your healthcare team is your primary care physician.

Your primary care physician is the person that should be your healthcare quarterback. Leslie said the most important thing any person can do to ensure that they’re going to be getting the best healthcare is to develop a strong and enduring relationship with a primary care physician.

How do you do that?

Take out a piece of paper and put together a list of the things that are important to you. Talk to friends, neighbors, relatives, and physicians who you like and respect. Ask them who their primary care physician is. Do some research on that person and then go and have at least three different interviews with primary care physicians. When you do that, you will find somebody who’s got the right personality for you, has the right expertise, and who will give you the time that you need.

3. When you have a major problem, make sure you find the best specialist for your particular ailment.

If you’re diagnosed with arthritis or if you’ve torn soft tissue in your knee or you’ve got back pain or all the kinds of things that most people develop over time, then it’s really important to go to a specialist with the expertise in exactly what you have, said Leslie.

If you have a cancer, for example, you should not be treated by a general oncologist. You should be treated by oncologists with expertise in your particular cancer. If you’ve got a heart valve that needs to be repaired or replaced, you should go to a major academic hospital with a coronary care unit that specializes in precisely that procedure, said Leslie. Don’t settle for second best when it comes to specialty healthcare.

4. The data shows that the key predictor of quality and surgical outcome is the experience of the surgeon.

For example, let’s say you have prostate cancer and you need to have your prostate removed. Leslie said you need to be treated by a surgeon who’s done at least 1,000 prostatectomy’s and is currently doing them at about that rate.


Because the data shows that the return of disease for surgeons that have done over one thousand surgeries is about 8% and the return of disease for surgeons who’ve done only 100 is about 25%. The point is you can dramatically improve the results of your surgery simply by asking the surgeon a simple question, “Dr. how many of these have you done?” If the answer is less than 1,000, offer to take the doctor out to lunch someday, but say you’re getting dressed, you’re packing up and you’re going to find somebody with more experience, said Leslie. It may sound harsh but it’s your health you’re dealing with and you only want to work with the most experienced surgeons.

5. If you’re in the hospital, make sure that you have your healthcare advocate with you.

Your healthcare advocate could be a family member, a colleague, a coworker, someone in your neighborhood, someone who you’re very very close with who can serve as your advocate.

This person should make sure that your chart is accurate, that your name, your birth date and everything is right. They should check to make sure the hospital knows your allergies, the other diagnoses you have, and that the medications you’re on are listed accurately on your chart. They should look at every single medication you get to make sure it’s the prescribed medicine and dosage.

Your healthcare advocate should be somebody who’s by your side, is responsible, professional, and polite.

Bill Keen on being a smarter healthcare consumer…

One of the most important things that I would recommend to anyone is to pick up a copy of Leslie’s book, The Patient’s Playbook.

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Got a question or comment? Email it to me and we’ll get back to you or call our office at (913) 624-1841. 

Bill Keen is the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, an independent Registered Investment Adviser serving affluent clients preparing for retirement and the host of the Keen On Retirement podcast. Bill brings more than 20 years of financial services experience and holds the CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR designation. Bill created Keen Wealth Advisors to build one of the country’s most personal and trusted wealth and retirement advisory firms. 

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